Last week’s numbers were delayed by Thanksgiving but it wasn’t great for AEW, losing again to NXT with their lowest overall yet. That said, the hope of every sane wrestling fan will be that All Elite don’t overreact to the news at all. As pointed out over and over again by Dave Meltzer and others, their business model continues to post solid returns based on their own early forecasts – especially in the key demos. More importantly, this isn’t about ‘battling’ WWE or NXT. This is about restoring the market in the industry with a real viable alternative.
WWE will want Wednesday nights to come across as a ‘war’ because if All Elite are dragged into a fight, they’ll be outgunned. But if they continue to execute their own long-term plans, wrestlers and fans alike will have options and WWE’s own leverage over every aspect of the game will diminish. So, AEW, for the love of God: don’t start filling these episodes of Dynamite with even more petty potshots!
Here’s hoping for this week.
We’re in Champaign, Illinois for the double digits edition. The usual three-man troupe are at full strength from the start on commentary.
Dustin Rhodes & The Young Bucks vs Santana, Ortiz & Sammy Guevara
Full-blown Elite vs Inner Circle warfare to start off the show here. Dustin has gear to match the Bucks, in a nice touch. The audio levels seem off during the entrances. The Elite run wild to start, and Dustin in particular has plenty of fire after his recent run-ins with the IC. Triple superkicks and triple dives pop the crowd before Matt tries to do too much alone and gets isolated.
Dustin with the hot tag and again, he’s feeling it tonight. He even uses a Destroyer, which’d be such a cool spot if not for the fact it seems to be company protocol to include one in every bleedin’ match. The slapjack weapon turns the tide, however, until Nick tags in and it breaks down.
Guevara, for whatever reason, includes his camcorder as he prepares to shooting star press… I dunno, the invisible man? It’s basically a setup for a SSP into stereo superkicks in a cool visual blown by its complete lack of common sense and awkward landing. Anyway, that leads to a triple-team Indytaker for the win in the usual Dynamite match length.
This opener is such a mixed bag. Of all the times to stick an 11-minute bout on the TV show, this is actually a great choice. Right from the get-go, with tag team formula and interwoven storylines to boot. You’re playing to your strengths AND rewarding regular viewers at the same time.
On the other hand, this really needed to take half of its spots and replace them with more tag team formula to build to the better spots still left in. I hate sounding like one of those “wrestlers these days are all spots and no psychology” because it’s mostly used as a very lazy blanket statement in place of actual insight, but this match won’t help that never-ending debate online. Especially when five of the six participants have a proven track record in truly compelling tag team wrestling, and the sixth has all the potential in the world to follow suit. But ultra-motivated Dustin Rhodes will always get a thumbs-up from me.
Fenix vs Trent Barreta
Barreta has been picking up some momentum with big wins as of late, something that hasn’t felt as organic as the Scorpio Sky breakout throughout the early stages of Dynamite. Chuckie T and Orange Cassidy are at ringside.
Fenix tries to start aggressively and find a quick win, but we morph into another 10-12 minute back-and-forth, which feels cloggy straight after the opener. Nonetheless, it’s good stuff between two fun guys to watch before Fenix ends Trent’s recent good run with the Black Fire Driver in almost exactly the same amount of time as the six-man tag.
It’s hard to tell where this mini-feud is headed, if it’s already over or what good it’ll serve in the long run. Best Friends are certainly a more valuable act and better performers than many give them credit for, but they are also definitely a level beneath the Lucha Bros, who the fans really want to get behind sooner rather than later. At least the action was good.
Cody is in the ring now for a promo that probably would have fit in far better after the first match. He says the Butcher and the Blade attacked him at a point where he has nobody to back him up, with his Elite cohorts fully engaged in battle with the Inner Circle, his wife running around cutting people’s hair and his best friend MJF betraying him. He says he is well aware of their credentials and would have hired them if they asked, but after their attack he’ll take them on in the ring any time and with any partner assigned to him.
He then moves onto MJF and his vow to never wrestle Cody one-on-one. After getting in his obligatory shot at WWE (“At least they’re botching Cross-Rhodes on two channels now”) because OF COURSE HE HAS TO MENTION THEM, he recovers the otherwise-good promo by offering MJF a host of stuff to get him to change his mind including the keys to his car, a watch gifted to him by Tony Khan and $50,000 cash. He even gives 100 dollars to a bemused kid in the crowd to ‘prove its authenticity’.
Once again, Cody delivered on the mic but a combination of his blurry persona (is he the underdog trying to make it on his own from the working class Rhodes family or is he Mr. Big with all these luxury items and briefcases full of cash?) and his insistence on making references to WWE take gleam off his efforts.
Joey Janela says he’s ready for Jon Moxley tonight, and this time Mox will have to kill him. Moxley himself actually wanders in, muses “kids” and wanders back off.
Nyla Rose vs Leva Bates
Nyla destroys Leva AND Peter Avalon, shrugs off a shot with a book, chokeslams both and then Beast Bombs Bates for the win in 90 seconds of pure destruction.
That being said, with the referee choosing to overlook the interference and use of an object, presumably due to their sheer ineffectiveness, would this be the right time to suggest that football/soccer’s “play on with the advantage” gesture should be introduced to wrestling? It’s a realm in which clarity is often needed at all times, and it’d make sense if an official indicated that they are passing on the chance to call for a DQ because they can sense a better result is coming.
Nyla then tears through an outrushing Shanna, looking for revenge for last week, as well as the referee. Maybe the ref should have tacked a DQ win on her record after all! And then AEW cuts to Britt Baker in the crowd and refers to her as Adam Cole’s girlfriend. OH, FFS! They’re totally going to get pulled into a petty battle and lose sight of the main goal here, aren’t they.
Le Champion is out next, with Jake Hager by his side. Jericho plugs his Little Bit of the Bubbly line before announcing that he has to defend his AEW World title one final time before 2019 ends. However, he has apparently been given carte blanche to handpick his opponent for December 18th and he pulls out a list to a huge pop.
Chris quickly tells the fans to get out of 2016 – this isn’t a list, but a lexicon, apparently. Anyway, this gets pretty funny with a shade of the 1004 holds list from 20 years ago as he runs through people he will NOT be selecting for a title opportunity: Jon Moxley, Cody (“Because he can’t”), Young Bucks, Papa Buck, Uncle Buck, Buck Owens, Moxley, Hangman Page, Diamond Dallas Page, Paige, Moxley, Scorpio Sky, 2 Cold Scorpio, Any member of the Scorpions, Moxley, Michael Nakazawa, Kenny Omega, Kenny Ortega, Kenny Shields, Kenny Chesney, Kenny from South Park, Moxley, the chubby guy with the popcorn in the fifth row, the ugly guy with the dumb glasses in the third row, Moxley, Darby Allin, Rick Allen, Alan Jones (FFS), Moxley, Evil Uno, Angry Dos, Hateful Tres, Moxley, Marty.
This is cut off by the Jurassic Express, but the champ says no to Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt, eventually deciding he will teach Jungle Boy a lesson in two weeks because he “won’t last 10 minutes with him”. Well, at least the match following the same structure as every week will at least be part of the storyline. Jungle Boy says he will prove Jericho wrong and kick his ass, triggering a brawl which the Jurassics win with the extra number. Hager and Le Champion take a powder.
Hikaru Shida vs Kris Statlander
Team-mates last week go head-to-head this time around. Shida has looked like she may be heading towards a shot at Riho’s AEW Women’s title as of late, but she gives relative newcomer Statlander a lot here.
Shida mostly sticks to knee-based offense as Kris showcases her main moves, landing a face-first electric chair drop, axe kick and falcon arrow before a cradle tombstone gets her the surprising win over Shida in about eight minutes.
I enjoyed this, and it was nice to be surprised by a result. It’s hard to tell where the title picture goes from here – perhaps a multi-woman match? There’s a fair way to go until the next PPV anyway, one would assume.
Brandi Rhodes and Awesome Kong interrupt the post-match celebration. Brandi introduces them as the Nightmare Collective. She wants Kris to join them but before she can give an answer, someone else crashes the scene and asks to be a part of it. She lets them cut her hair off to seal the deal. I’m still not feeling this storyline – especially with the Straight Edge Society re-run and having The Dark Order already making the crowd go mild with a similar “join us” routine. But, it’s a storyline!
QT Marshall will be Cody’s partner next week against The Butcher and The Blade. OK. Also, Young Bucks and Santana/Ortiz potentially blow off their feud in a Street Fight. Commentary may want to emphasise before the match that the pin has to be a legal one even in a no-DQ environment, just to avoid more confusion.
Christopher Daniels vs Pentagon
One would imagine this is the blow-off for Pentagon’s vicious attack on Daniels early in Dynamite’s run. They start with a brawl, which makes sense, and Daniels seems to be portraying that he’s not at 100%. In fact, there’s a blown spot here that I could have sworn he also blew on purpose one time in TNA in a similar manner for a similar situation. Could be wrong, though.
Daniels is able to prepare Angel’s Wings nonetheless, but Fenix throws in a mic stand for the distraction which allows Pentagon to hit a low blow behind the ref’s back and the Package Piledriver settles it in about nine minutes.
This was good stuff and again boosted by the story within, though the Lucha Bros continue to get cheered even when they win like this. AEW are going to have to pull the plug on their current alignment at some point – perhaps after a win or a loss to Daniels’ AEW buddies in tag title action? Either way, between Kaz and Sky ending up as the championship duo and recent appearances for Daniels, it feels like the Fallen Angel is at the final stage of his in-ring career and his appearances are sporadic and selfless to that end.
Allie says The Butcher and The Blade were sick of Cody’s face being everywhere on AEW material, so they decided to cut the head off the snake.
Jon Moxley vs Joey Janela
Much like in his match with Darby Allin, Moxley is coming across as a class above in this bout which is good for his showdown with Chris Jericho down the line. And yet, this is another well-worked, competitive match nonetheless. And it does a good job of providing the intensity and fight feel of a lawless bout without actually shedding the confines of a wrestling contest.
Janela uses a tornado DDT and sunset flip powerbomb to avoid being blown away by Mox, and they trade strikes once more in the latter stages. Joey rallies and sends Jon crashing through all the various bits and bobs near the timekeeper’s area with a dive before sending him back in for a near-fall off a top rope elbowdrop. A superplex attempt is blocked, however, and Moxley hits a version of his finish onto the turnbuckle before a proper Paradigm Shift in the middle of the ring keeps him undefeated after about 10 minutes.
Post-match, Jericho and the Inner Circle provide a role reversal of Mox’s through-the-crowd appearance at the end of last week’s show, and we’re outta here.
Another week, another formulaic AEW Dynamite. The usual personalities have personality, the usual acts are hit or miss and the content of the show continues to be too good to really slate, but nowhere near as good as it could be.
As hinted at near the top of this review, I can actually live with that middling area if they completely washed their hands of the petty references to WWE, regardless of whether NXT and co choose to get petty themselves. If AEW focuses on itself alone and doesn’t let anyone convince them that perfection is the only measurement of success, they have a real shot at making wrestling better for everybody in the industry whose role model isn’t Montgomery Burns.