So, on last week’s debut episode All Elite Wrestling delivered the shot it called in the run-up to that fateful night and delivered a show reared from their own values and visions of professional wrestling. It’ll take a few weeks before we will know for sure whether they can keep to their own tempo, or if they’ll be drawn into competing with the myriad of graps content now available through the week – particularly NXT running up against it. Here’s hoping the self-assured, proactive-not-reactive philosophy sticks it out.
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Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur are once again the hosts. It’s worth noting that JR was deemed by many as washed-up and jaded in recent years (a somewhat fair opinion, given his work for NJPW) while Schiavone was giving off that impression twenty years ago. Twenty! Meanwhile the masked man is the latest to join the ‘third man on commentary’ trope that itself has come across as played out for many a moon. All three have been a joy to listen to thus far, and are likely to continue that. The powers of motivation and belief in a project: stronger than Father Time and the history books combined.
The team run down tonight’s card, and once again they’re sticking to the format of that followed by a video package for the opener. I’d personally prefer getting into the first action faster, but Private Party benefit from the intro package as far as the home audience is concerned.
AEW Tag Team Championship Tournament, first round: The Young Bucks vs Private Party
The Bucks are first out, and back to their Superkick Party theme. PP are fully into their gimmick, with a bouncer and red velvet rope set up on the stage and being billed from “where you need an invitation”. Excalibur describes PP as reminding him of the Bucks from 10 years ago as the match begins with the story being told that the tourney’s top seeds the Bucks are feeling the pressure up against their popular and younger opponents. PP win over the crowd big time with a hot start to the match, until the Bucks have to resort to powerbombing Isiah Kassidy on the ramp to take over, with the Jackson brothers doing a great job of selling the gravitas of their desperation with their facial expressions.
JR gets this week’s subtle shade in by emphasising that “wins and losses DO matter” as the Bucks work over Marq Quen. Kassidy finally gets the hot tag but is still selling the powerbomb, which is a really welcome sight. Justin Roberts announces the 10-minute mark of the match, as he had all last week, which takes JR by surprise but is one of those little things I’m so glad they brought back to US wrestling. Commentary has been something else during this match, really dovetailing with the storytelling. PP get a HUGE near fall with Gin & Juice followed by perhaps the most beautiful shooting star press you’ll see for some time by Quen, before Kassidy cuts off the Meltzer Driver so that his partner can score the upset with a cradle. Further adding to this fantastic start to the tag tournament is the camera splicing in shots of various other tag teams watching and reacting from the crowd.
Out comes AEW champ Chris Jericho, and his entire entourage from the end of last week’s episode is with him. There’s something about JR and Schiavone marvelling over Jericho’s star power and longevity, 21 years after WCW opted not to bother futureproofing. Chris’s promo to formally introduce his posse ticks all the boxes, putting over everyone’s respective strengths, working in references to The List and Eddie Guerrero on what would have been his 52nd birthday and masterfully destroying ‘we the people’ chants before dubbing this anti-Elite group The Inner Circle. Jericho then brands The Elite entitled and starts really badmouthing the Rhodes family. Killer promo in a killer start to episode two so far.
Jimmy Havoc vs Darby Allin
Havoc gets a pop-up pre-tape promo during his entrance to introduce his sadistic character to the TV audience which frankly could have said just as much at a third of the length. Allin fought Cody to a 20-minute time limit draw at Fighter Fest, and we get highlights of that. Much like the Cody match, this one emphasises how much offense Allin can soak up as Havoc fails to put him away after a Blu-Ray (DVD into the turnbuckles) and a sweet double underhook piledriver before a float-over stunner from Darby sets up the Coffin Drop (a blind faith senton bomb from the top) for the win and the right to challenge Jericho next week. One would imagine that a title defence over Allin will give the champ additional bragging rights over Cody after beating someone he couldn’t. Good match, and one that established both men quite well without gimmicks.
Riho & Britt Baker vs Emi Sakura & Bea Priestley
Priestley’s entrance straight after the last match does make me hope the ‘gothic look’ isn’t overdone on this roster. Sakura is put over as having trained Riho, the first AEW Women’s champ, as well as a host of other Joshi stars. Britt and Bea are currently feuding, but Baker was on commentary when Riho beat Nyla Rose last week and made no attempt to hide her desire to challenge for the belt next – and why would she?
The larger teacher bullies the diminutive student to start, before a Baker/Priestley ringside brawl sparks the champ’s fightback. Baker is isolated next, leading to Schiavone showing legit, wholesome glee that Sakura’s pump splash is now known canonically as the ‘Vader Bomb’. Britt fights back, ripcords into a Roaring Elbow and then uses a modified neckbreaker to set up a crossface/mandible claw combo for the win. Bea and Baker have a post-match pull-apart, and one could imagine that eventual grudge match determining our next contender.
Next, an amusing cinematic clip of the Best Friends hugging leads to a ringside interview with Chuckie and Trent themselves. They’re up against SCU in the tag tournament next week, and rather than discuss their chances, they leave it up to their buddy Orange Cassidy to deliver the money line – or in this case, a half-hearted thumbs up. Some will criticise Cassidy in hopes of getting a retweet from Jim Cornette, but in the right capacity – with the appropriate degree of restraint – Orange can absolutely be a hit.
Jon Moxley vs Shawn Spears (w/ Tully Blanchard)
Spears is known as ‘the chairman of AEW’ – <La_Parka_meme.gif> . PAC is on commentary, and mostly just complains about being overlooked for an AEW title match despite his wins over Kenny Omega and Adam Page. Once again, his accent is a huge stumbling block but he’s trying.
This is an energetic brawl with Moxley, after a host of run-in attacks on the popular Omega, this time up against the devious Spears and conniving Blanchard at ringside. The match slows down very noticeably when Shawn takes over, but Moxley fights back, weathers a ushigoroshi and then counters a second attempt into the Death Rider for the pin.
Post-match, Omega walks out onto the stage – and he’s carrying a barbed wire baseball bat in one hand, and a barbed wire broom in the other! Yes, a barbed wire broom. The Cleaner is back, it seems. Moxley approaches on the ramp, and Omega actually tosses the bat to Mox, demanding he pick it up. The crowd is very much into the prospect of this brutal duel, only for PAC to blindside Omega with a chair. And speaking of brutal, he connects with the edge of the chair to the back of Kenny’s head. Now that’s how you take it up a notch.
Moxley chases PAC off before glimpsing down at Omega, then at the bat in his hands. But, Jon throws the bat down, seemingly honouring Kenny’s request at a fair fight after several sneak attacks on Omega. A really powerful segment, albeit one that made last week’s glass table stunt even more needless in comparison. We may well have a Triangle match with the perfect three-tiered dynamic on the horizon, however.
Dustin Rhodes & Adam Page vs Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara
It feels weird hearing Dustin still referred to as ‘The Natural’ while he comes out in half-and-half face-paint and body suit like a red Goldust. Schiavone makes a great callback to the Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes tag team, noting the similarities between Hangman and The Lone Wolf. JR calls Jericho ‘the Godfather of the Inner Circle’ as he comes out with Jake Hager by his side. Just before we get underway, Riho vs Britt Baker for the Women’s title is announced for next week, giving us a double championship broadcast.
Rhodes wastes no time brawling with Jericho after the end of last week’s show. Dustin and Hangman make for as good a team as commentary tip them to be, but ultimately Guevara keeps the ref occupied so that Hager can attack Dustin for the second week in a row, setting up Jericho’s Judas Effect elbow for the pin.
The three heels continue to put the boots to Rhodes after the match until Page is able to neutralise Hager with a chair. They brawl to the back as Jericho and Guevara continue on Dustin until a dimming and raising of the lights brings Cody to the ring. He wipes out Sammy with Cross Rhodes before confronting the AEW World champion, only for Ortiz and Santana to jump him. This brings a chair-wielding MJF to the ring, and after teasing hitting Cody he makes the save for his friend, laying out the former LAX with the steel.
Jericho catches MJF with the Codebreaker, and the Young Bucks are down to turn the tide AGAIN, focusing especially on Santana and Ortiz. Chris then takes a powder with his title belt while the rest of the Inner Circle takes a beating, until Darby Allin skateboards (yes, skateboards) down the ramp and right into a tackle on the champ before drilling him with the Bart Simpson tribute to hammer home next week’s title match. And we’re out!
This was a great wrestling television show. Stories were furthered, new acts were highlighted and Chris Jericho is carrying the star power up top with ease. Commentary really added a new dimension to pretty much every match on tap, though adding a fourth man with limited mic skills for Moxley/Spears is something they hopefully won’t do too much in the future.
There are of course other things that need cleaning up, too. There was less pyro this week but even then the timing was off here and there, making you wonder if they really should bother for the most part. JR made a few of his usual slip-ups, calling Jake Hager ‘Jack’ and referring to MJF as a ‘little man’ but he was quick to walk them back. And at least this week there were no silly glass table spots.
It’s early doors, but AEW are doing things their way. And while the NWA Powerrr show on Tuesday was a great example of offering diehard wrestling fans something they’ll appreciate, there’s more than just that on offer with Dynamite. There’s enough to keep casuals and lapsed fans intrigued and while only a once-in-a-generation phenomenon will bring that type in by the truckload (and there’s no guarantee of that at any time) it at the very least makes the audience base fertile for growth. If they stick to their word that they’ll do things their way and patiently so, it will pay off.