This week was supposed to be AEW’s version of War Games, the wonderfully titled “Blood & Guts.” Because of the coronavirus pandemic, that has understandably and unfortunately been delayed. Tony Kahn issued a statement explaining this decision:
“Our goal every week with AEW Dynamite on TNT is to produce great shows for our fans, and I believe we do. We felt especially motivated to serve our audience this past Wednesday night given what the entire world is coping with, and hopefully we gave them a well-deserved escape during these trying times. Everyone at AEW is very proud of what we delivered and humbled by the response and the kind words we’ve received from fans and partners throughout the world.
Thank you! We plan to continue answering that calling with live weekly shows every Wednesday night on TNT, but the time and circumstances aren’t right for the card we had planned next week for Blood and Guts.
That show will happen when the time is right, but what you can count on instead this coming Wednesday night is a great live episode of AEW Dynamite featuring [Chris Jericho] confronting [Matt Hardy] face-to-face, one-on-one, for the first time ever and a tremendous night of wrestling action. In the meantime, until AEW Dynamite this Wednesday night, please follow us via social media and please be safe and smart so we can get back to seeing you all on the road as soon as possible.
Thank you for making this all possible for everyone here at AEW, it’s a dream come true to be able to do these shows for all of you.”
Chris Jericho followed this up with a tweet, responding to a fan unhappy with this decision:
So, regardless of how you feel about “Blood & Guts” being delayed, the fact is that is not going to happen for some time, and we just have to live with that. Jericho’s tweet also alludes to the fact that, if they’re limiting situations to 10 people or less, we’re seemingly not getting wrestlers at ringside again anytime soon. This week, there was some backstage picture-in-picture gambling stuff, with Shawn Spears leading the action. I mean, it’s better than nothing, I guess.
It seems like Dynamite is going to continue like it did tonight, and, honestly, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. They have solid momentum, and last week’s rating was great. However, this week’s show was uninspired and flat. I don’t blame this on the booking, really. The situation is just jacked up. To steal an idea from our main man Ted Flint, maybe we build these current programs to a logical end point in the next couple of weeks, and then run a different AEW pay-per-view every week. Hell, you could even do a Mystery Science Theater-style watch-along podcast that you could cue up with the PPV, and have Schiavone and Cody or Hangman or whoever providing commentary and backstage insights alongside the action.
I don’t know what the answer. These are obviously uncharted waters. I’m not sure, though, how long Dynamite can operate like this on a weekly basis.
Main Event Shit
–There was plenty to like about this week’s episode of Dynamite, but as far as top end stuff goes, the main event of this week’s program was the best thing on the show. I’ve made no secret here of my love for Sammy Guevara. I think he’s going to be the future of this company. He’s that good.
Put Sammy against Kenny Omega, who I’ve been touting on these Tailgate Society pages since 2017, and you’ve got my attention. Omega was defending his AAA Mega Championship that he won by defeating Rey Fenix back in October (watch that match here if you haven’t already).
This match started with Sammy in control, and Kenny only gaining momentum after Sammy hits on Brandi at ringside.
From there, it’s largely back and forth. Both guys get their offense in, and the result is a really good match.
In the end, Sammy countered some of Omega’s big moves, but Omega is still able to eventually hit the V-Trigger and One Winged Angel for the pinfall.
This went almost 25 minutes, and, while it wasn’t pay-per-view caliber, it was a solid 3.5 outing and easily the best match on the show.
–A Jake Roberts video promo aired, and I cannot overstate how much fun it is to have a healthy, sober, on-top-of-his-game Jake Roberts back in wrestling. Talking right into the camera, Roberts says that Lance Archer is ready to get in the ring, but Cody is scared of giving him a shot, scared of what he did in Japan.
This resulted in Cody, after the video, saying that Archer can in fact debut on next week’s episode.
I’m sure that they’ll have Archer kill some poor soul next week on Dynamite, which is fine by me. Set him up as a monster. I’m giving this segment an A simply because of Roberts and his ability to sell fear. One of the greats.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–Cody took on Jimmy Havoc in the opening match of the episode. As someone who doesn’t watch AEW Dark on a regular basis, this was my first time seeing Havoc is quite awhile. While he’s still not my cup of tea, this match was very solid. I’m beginning to think that it’s basically impossible at this point for Cody to have a bad match.
Havoc, primarily a hardcore wrestler in the past, did a nice job of working a traditional-style match. Within that more traditional-style, though, he grabbed Cody’s earlobe, his tongue, and worked in some eye pokes for good measure.
Although I don’t personally much care for him as a worker, I have to say that Havoc did a nice job here.
Of course, Cody picked up the win after an inverted superplex and two CrossRhodes.
A solid match to start the show.
For the rest of the show, Cody sat in on commentary and, in my opinion, did a nice job. I’ll admit that his announcing style probably isn’t for everyone. He’s prone to hyperbole (comparing Darby Allin to a young Sting, for instance) over-reliant on references to the past. While I am fine with him namedropping guys like Bill Watts and other long ago WCW stars, I know this will grate on some. Paired with Schiavone, though, I thought Cody did a good job throughout, especially as it came to putting guys over. He and Schiavone had a natural repartee, and it was clear that the two have been friends for years.
–We got a Darby Allin video package that was fairly similar to last week’s, although that’s not a bad thing. He’s learning lessons the hard way from the Inner Circle and then he lit a table on fire. After that, Darby took on Kip Sabian in a fine match. Darby, I think as much as anyone on the roster, benefits from crowd response to his crazy shit. Unfortunately, in an empty arena, it’s still cool but not as impactful. Normally, he’s the guy that gets the piss stomped out of him and then makes the comeback that has the crowd on fire. The empty arena takes away some of that.
Against Sabian, we did get to see a different finisher from Darby, as he won in 10 minutes with the Last Supper, a leglock pinning combo. This match had a lot working against it: I don’t like Sabian, everyone knew Darby was getting the win, and there was no crowd to react to Darby. Factoring those things in, I think this was probably as good as it could have been.
–Jake Hager defeated Chico Adams in a squash.
Not much else to say about this one. I will say that we as fans have been conditioned away from squash matches, but I think they have a time and place. In many ways, this match (and the Brodie Lee match I’ll touch on in a minute) reminded me of old WCW Saturday Night bouts where the point was simply to get over one guy and his finisher over as unstoppable. We haven’t seen that from WWE, with their inane 50/50 booking, in some time.
And hell, there’s no crowd here and the world is a shadow of itself. AEW might as well try some stuff like this.
After the Hager match, Jon Moxley showed up and him and Hager brawled for a minute.
Mox hit a Paradigm Shift, but Hager recovered quickly enough to get Moxley in an ankle lock. Moxley escaped the hold and Hager jetted.
I cannot say that I’m super excited for a Moxley-Hager mini-feud if that’s where we’re headed. Hager, I suppose, is being presented as a threat, with his undefeated record an all, but he is not good in the ring, if we’re being honest. I’m sure Moxley can get a decent match out of him, but I don’t know if I want to watch it, especially with no crowd.
–Regarding Brodie Lee, they did an effective (albeit sort of strange) video package of him eating a steak while in a full suit.
Lee said that the Dark Order will be the lions of AEW, preying on the weak and doing what they want when they want. The strange part of this was that he was basically doing a riff on the real-life idiosyncrasies of Vince McMahon. Vince is a renowned steak eater, who also hates when people sneeze around him (supposedly because he’s a germaphobe). Here, Lee banishes both John Silver (until Lee is done eating) and Alex Reynolds (for daring to sneeze in the Exalted One’s presence). I don’t know if this works if you’re not in on the joke.
Once it was time for Lee to debut against QT Marshall, they did a 3 minute squash, similar to the Hager match.
It was fine in establishing Lee as a force, but I thought he looked a little rusty. Honestly, it’s so hard to really get a gauge on anything when the crowd is removed from the situation. I wrote last week that AEW was able to avoid the high school theater production atmosphere in that episode. The same didn’t apply for this week’s show. Brodie Lee will be fine, but it’s pretty disappointing that we have to watch him debut under these circumstances.
After getting the win with a discus lariat, Lee dropped a Dark Order mask on a barely alive QT.
–To end the show, the newly signed Matt Hardy faced off with Chris Jericho. To begin the segment, Jericho is cutting a promo when the drone from last week, named Vanguard 1, arrives. Jericho offers both Hardy and Vanguard 1 a spot in the Inner Circle, and proceeds to cut a pretty funny promo on the drone.
Then, the drone leaves, and Matt Hardy arrives, teleporting all over the building before eventually ending up at ringside. The two go back and forth for a very long promo that, honestly, lost me long before it was over. Hardy was talking about Damascus and being 3000 years old and all sorts of hokey shit.
Essentially, Hardy turned down Jericho’s offer, saying AEW represents freedom to him, the Bucks of Youth freed him, and he won’t allow the Inner Circle to run this place.
After all this, Jericho slaps Hardy, and Hardy drops Jericho. Sammy does the run-in, but Cody and Kenny make the save with chairs, standing with Hardy to end the show.
I didn’t see the Broken Matt Hardy character in TNA, so this is all new to me. I didn’t hate the segment, but it felt a little more over-the-top than things usually are in AEW. To this point, the successful acts in AEW have had an element of realism that was largely missing here, and it all felt at odds with the “treat it like a real sport” attitude that Cody has been touting since the beginning of AEW. Yes, I understand that people like Orange Cassidy are doing goofy shit too and that it’s incredibly over. This felt like too much to me. That said, I also know that I’m probably in the minority and that a lot of fans out there will like it. If that’s the case, then go forth and conquer Broken Matt. It’s just a little out there for me.
The Final Bell
–This was probably my least favorite episode of Dynamite since the Dark Order ended the winter finale by beating down The Elite. This week was nowhere close to as bad as that and probably not actually bad at all. It just wasn’t as good as the show has been. I’m not laying all that blame at the feet of AEW. It is as much the situation as anything. To put on a show with no crowd is incredibly challenging. Last week, they were able to pull it off. This week, not so much. It’s hard to tell what the path is going forward, honestly. If they continue to run weekly shows, there are likely to be some stinkers. This week was one of them.