When AEW Dynamite has been at its best in its short history, the show has mixed in-ring action with professional-looking video packages and angles that build towards future shows. If that’s the benchmark, this week’s show has to be considered a pretty damn rousing success. There were multiple points throughout the December 11th episode of Dynamite that I found myself thinking that AEW could literally not be building a particular angle any more effectively. Of course, not everything was a home run. For the full breakdown, let’s see what worked, what didn’t, and what’s Getting Over.
Main Event Shit
–The show started with Alex Reynolds already in the ring, and Mox doing his hot-as-shit crowd entrance.
This was a 10 second squash but really just a vehicle for a Jericho/Mox angle. As I said last week, it’s pretty clear that AEW is building towards a Mox/Jericho title match in early 2020. JR was selling the inevitability of the matchup hard, which is smart. With PPVs being spread out a bit more than the now-traditional every month show, it’s good to condition the fans to a long-term build.
(Side Note: It was announced that the next AEW PPV will be AEW Revolution in Chicago on Saturday, February 29th. Glad to finally get confirmation of the next PPV, but Revolution? That’s pretty much the most generic name possible. More than a little disappointed about that.)
So, Jericho pulls the old NWO move, offering Mox a spot in the Inner Circle and handing him the requisite t-shirt. Mox, rather than dismissing the idea right away, says nothing.
Obviously, Mox ain’t joining the Inner Circle, but AEW has managed to take the inevitable and turn it into something that fans are going to go batshit crazy for: The moment that Mox officially declines the invitation is gonna be hot as hell.
This was a great segment to start the show. Jericho was pitch perfect. He acknowledged his history with Mox without beating the audience over the head with WWE references, and his tone of voice got the angle over as much as anything. He was reserved and treated Mox like a wild animal. Just a professional job all around with a time-honored angle.
–The Young Bucks video package came next. Showing old PWG and indie highlights was a great touch. It played to the long-time Bucks fans while also providing a bit of a history lesson for new fans. Excalibur put over the Bucks in a big way here, and the package did its job in building up the main event. This is the type of content I live for. It fleshes out the characters involved and builds angles up as being important and must-see. It’s hard to ask for more than that really.
–If you can honestly watch MJF and not see him as the top heel in the business (outside of Jericho), then I don’t really even know what to say. The promo that MJF gave this week was unbelievable in terms of generating heel heat. Having the production assistant kiss the ring, only to then give him a Cross Rhodes was phenomenal. It’s easy to insult the crowd (and MJF does that as well as anyone), but it’s the little touches that MJF brings to his promos. It’s feeding off the crowd, the timing, the lines that make the crowd simultaneously hate you but laugh along with you. MJF makes fun of Cody’s hair and, even more hilariously, his lisp.
In the end, MJF says that he will wrestle Cody. But it won’t quite be that easy. There will be stipulations and MJF isn’t ready to reveal those just yet. This was some top-notch heel work.
–The main event of this week’s Dynamite is the very definition of Main Event Shit. We’ve got a long-simmering feud between two really good teams, a Texas Street Fight Stipulation, and a #1 contender’s spot on the line. This match was complete chaos in the absolute best sense of the word. The match started with an ambush by Santana and Ortiz and the Bucks were entering. Brandon Cutler came out and got powerbombed through the stage, in a spot that I will never get sick of.
Nick Jackson jumped off the top of the entrance tunnel through a table.
There was even a spot where Matt Jackson put on a Dallas Cowboys helmet to help protect himself from weapons shots.
Eventually, the Bucks pulled out the win with a Meltzer Driver on a chair. This match was hot as hell throughout and featured some great work by both teams.
Afterwards, SCU comes out for the requisite staredown to end Dynamite. These teams will face off next week, and I think the time is right to put the strap on the Bucks. It’s entirely likely they don’t win because of some sort of chicanery, and they certainly wouldn’t be hurt with a loss. That said, sometimes you just have to pull the trigger. The Bucks don’t need the titles, but they really should be the champs.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–There was a lot to like about the Cody/QT Marshall vs. the Butcher and the Blade. As someone unfamiliar with just who the hell the Butcher and the Blade are, I appreciated the overexplanation that JR and Excalibur provided during the entrance. Before this, I had no idea which one was the Butcher and which was the Blade. It was also good the announcers finally acknowledged the absurdity of how, just a few short weeks ago, Bunny was actually Allie and was being interviewed by Tony Schiavone before being attacked by Awesome Kong. They teased that being the moment where she turned and transformed into Bunny. As good of an explanation as any, I guess. Still doesn’t make much sense, but at least it’s an explanation.
As for the actual match, it was surprisingly good.
QT Marshall was hilariously shocked every time he hit any move, and the fans were decidedly hot for that action. If I had to rank the weird goth/cult teams in AEW, I’d put Butcher and Blade ahead of the Dark Order and Nightmare Collective. Of course, the problem remains to be that there are three of these groups and nothing much to distinguish them. However, the Butcher and the Blade seem to be good workers and they have Bunny (a major plus), so they are tops in my book.
Unsurprisingly, the Butcher and the Blade get the win here.
It would have pretty much killed any chance they had of getting over if they’d lost here, so they had to win. The downside is that Cody looks like a foolish babyface, a major problem in WWE that AEW would be wise to avoid. It’s a good thing that Cody, at this point, is maybe the most Teflon character in wrestling. Almost anything could happen to him and he’d still be one of the most over guys in the company. That’s good because he’s made some real bad choices that could doom anyone else. First, he effectively disqualifies himself from challenging for the world title ever again. Second, he allows himself to be duped by MJF. Third, he lets a heel tag team pick his partner for a match. Not smart, Cody. It’s not like I see this impacting Cody at all in terms of fan reaction, but AEW needs to be careful of making their babyfaces look like idiots with no friends (aka every babyface in WWE).
Luckily, Darby Allin came to Cody’s side post-match, so it appears there might be some sort of alliance forming there.
Two notes from this developing angle: 1) Every time that AEW has used Darby, the angle has been done to perfection, from his match against Jericho to challenging Mox to coming to Cody’s side. I’m interested in seeing where this goes. 2) Why does The Elite never help Cody? Dustin can align himself with the Young Bucks but not his brother? I get that they’re doing the “man alone” thing with Cody, but that doesn’t work as well logically if he’s a part of the main face faction in the company.
–Another Dark Order vignette ran, with Alex Reynolds (previously squashed by Mox) in a hotel room. Alex is asked if he’s tired of being a jobber. Eventually Reynolds’ teammate John Silver comes in to ask Reynolds who he’s talking to. I am skeptical of this Dark Order gimmick, but this, to me, is the best thing they’ve done thus far.
–Big Swole vs. Emi Sakura was not bad for what it was, but the women’s division is kind of a mess. I can’t remember the last time Riho, the champ, wrestled. Last week, Hikaru Shida lost to Kris Statlander, but is still the number one contender. Here, Sakura is the #3 ranked woman, but Big Swole gets the win. Next week, there’s a #1 contender match between #4 Britt Baker and #5 Kris Statlander. Huh? How do you have a #1 contender match without the actual #1 contender (Shida)?
Those things aside, Swole is clearly a star.
She’s not the most talented wrestler in the division, but she is right near the top in terms of charisma. The announcers did a good job of putting Big Swole over, while also pimping AEW Dark as a place to watch up and comers like Swole. While I haven’t watched every episode of Dark, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that most people don’t even know AEW Dark is a thing. There’s no reason to sell it as must-watch, but selling it as a place to watch future stars is a great way to promote it.
–For a match that I wasn’t especially looking forward to, the Kip Sabian/Shawn Spears vs. Kenny Omega/Hangman page match sure had a lot of angles to it. I’m always down for an Omega match, but Shawn Spears is an instant interest-killer. I also have zero engagement with Kip Sabian, who comes off as the very definition of “just a guy” to me.
Now, as for the angles, Tully Blanchard is trying to find a partner for Spears. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, Sabian is the wrestler receiving the tryout this week. Blanchard watched from backstage, where, of course, he was shown to be tied to a chair after the lights went out. The culprit was Joey Janela, still engaged in feud that will never end with Spears. All of that is happening, and there is also the teased dissension among Adam Page and the rest of the Elite. In this case, that means Kenny Omega.
Omega appeared ready to end the match after delivering a V-Trigger to Sabian.
However, Page made a blind tag and came in to deliver the Buckshot Lariat for the win. Omega looked pissed, especially as Hangman celebrated, so this is clearly headed towards disaster. Page doesn’t really have anything to do at this point, as no immediate feud looms, but Omega is on again/off again with PAC. In the short term, we get Omega/Page vs. the Lucha Bros next week. I can see a split happening then, possibly coupled with some interference from PAC. Although maybe they’ll let this simmer for awhile. Either way, it’s building towards the future, and irons in the fire is always a good thing.
–Another week and another Nightmare Collective video. Like the Dark Order stuff, I’m still not on board with this gimmick, but they are clearly still building it so maybe it will get good eventually? Here, Brandi says last week’s offer to Statlander still stands, and she teased the addition of a male member to the NC. They showed the back of his bald head, but that’s all we get at this point.
–Luchasaurus vs. Sammy Guevara existed solely as an excuse to further set up the Jungle Boy/Jericho angle for next week’s Dynamite. Luchasaurus won the match, which was then followed by a Jake Hager/Luchasaurus brawl. That left Jungle Boy and Jericho in the ring.
Once again, Jericho dishes out that championship rub, as Jungle Boy rolls up Jericho for an unofficial pin called by Marko Stunt.
When I was at the height of my wrestling fandom, I continually watched the top stars in WCW (Hogan and Nash were obviously the worst) make sure that the young guys in the company never reached main event status. Coincidentally, one of the main victims of that was Chris Jericho. Now, as AEW champ, Jericho is doing the exact opposite. He’s taking guys that the mainstream wrestling fan probably never knew before Dynamite started and making them into legit stars. It’s refreshing to watch, and further proof in my mind that Jericho is one of the all-time greats. Next week’s 10-minute challenge between Jericho and Jungle Boy should be a ton of fun.
–Another one of those beautiful weeks where everything was clicking and nothing (not even Brandi Rhodes) falls into Jobber Status.
The Final Bell
The last couple of weeks have brought good but not great shows. This week’s Dynamite was great. Angles galore, all building to the weeks ahead. It’s nice to have an idea of where the product is heading, and, all things, considered, I’m excited to see things play out between now and the new year.