Week three of All Elite Wrestling’s Dynamite on TNT brings us to Philadelphia, second home of many wrestlers who worked their way up the local scene to this robust point on the industry’s timeline. Some of those wrestlers are indeed on the AEW roster, as well as referee Bryce Remsburg.
Tonight, Chris Jericho defends the AEW World title against Darby Allin in a street fight and Riho makes her first Women’s title defence against Dr. Britt Baker while the tournament to crown the first tag champions rages on.
And, much to my liking, Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur send us straight to the ring after a brief introduction to the show. Straight into the action, love it!
AEW tag title tournament, first round: SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs Best Friends (Chuckie T & Trent)
But wait! SCU are jumped during their entrance by the Lucha Bros. These two sides had a scuffle on the stage on the very first episode, after SCU confirmed it’d be Daniels and Frankie representing them here. A vicious package piledriver on the ramp from Pentagon to Daniels leads to the Fallen Angel being stretchered out.
Scorpio Sky makes the save, with commentary making the nice note that additional stable members are banned from ringside during tournament matches to ensure a 2vs2 environment. In another realistic touch, he then talks to the referee who says Daniels can’t compete, leading to Sky taking off his shirt and snatching some tape from the trainer’s bag.
AEW tag title tournament, first round: SoCal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky & Frankie Kazarian) vs Best Friends (Chuckie T & Trent)
The ‘no hangers-on’ ringside rule means no Orange Cassidy, which may be for the best with regards to people taking the BFs seriously in this tournament. And to further emphasise the stakes, Chuckie and Trent attack a still-groggy Kaz at the opening bell and isolate him.
After weathering some impressive double-teams, Frankie finally tags Sky who is a house of fire. In jeans. And one shoe. And to his credit, he sells these factors while running wild on the BFs. Though, in fairness, it doesn’t take much imagination to portray fighting in one shoe.
Nonetheless, the crowd lap this up with a “he’s got one shoe” chant. A Chuckie dive hits his own partner and Sky then takes to the, erm, skies himself before throwing his last remaining shoe into the crowd for a pop. And the crowd give it back to him!
BFs resume control and take near-falls from more impressive double-teams before finally getting in their big hug moment. Finally, Trent tries a piledriver on the apron but has it reversed to a backdrop before Sky adds a knee strike to a Kaz powerbomb for the pin in what was unfortunately the least convincing double-team move of the entire match.
For the third straight week, a great match kicks off the broadcast and this one was loaded with great storytelling to boot. The Luchas feud was furthered, even if it does telegraph the tournament’s conclusion. The Best Friends looked more than capable as a team without actually making one of the company’s top-tier sides looking weak. And Scorpio Sky comes out of this like a star, having made the right call to step aside for the tenured tag team within SCU only to save the day after the Luchas attacked.
Beyond Wrestling stalwarts Jon Silver and Alex Reynolds enter the ring during the break, and they’ll be up against Santana and Ortiz in a non-tournament tag. Uh-oh.
The Inner Circle (Santana & Ortiz) vs Jon Silver & Alex Reynolds
Total squash here as Chris Jericho’s pals take Reynolds out of the equation from the start, kicking him off the apron before brutalising Silver and finishing with their Street Sweeper finish (sit-out powerbomb/blockbuster combo). There do seem to be a fair few powerbomb-related finishes in the tag division. But it’s nice to get a proper look at what the former LAX can do outside of run-ins.
As they return backstage, Jericho himself appears on the screen to sing their praises. I do like the lines “pitbulls among pitbulls” and “they’ll pick your pocket, then kick your ass anyway”. This ends in Jericho challenging The Young Bucks for Full Gear on their behalf.
A well-produced video emphasises Cody’s juggle of helping run AEW and his upcoming challenge of Jericho for the World title. Most impressive is that they restrict WWE references in this to just one, when MJF mentions him wanting to prove leaving “that other place” wasn’t a mistake. And DDP’s Dusty impression was spot-on.
AEW Women’s title: Riho (c) vs Dr. Britt Baker
This is Riho’s maiden title defence after winning the new championship a fortnight ago. Baker has a visible shiner from Bea Priestley’s cheap shot last week. JR makes a great call on commentary, noting that Baker asked the TV make-up artist backstage not to try and cover it up because she “wants the reminder of what she did”.
By proxy, the challenger has the size advantage here, as is the case with pretty much every Riho match. Baker wastes no time looking for that submission finisher we saw last week, the Lockjaw. In fact, the match continues on the premise that it’s the champion’s stick-and-move versus the Doctor’s efforts to ground her and extract the tap.
Riho tweaks her strategy and goes for a flurry of quick pins, but that backfires big time as Baker muscles her over to take control. The champ then opts to fight fire with fire and that works rather well, nearly getting the tap with a vicious half crab and following the break with the top rope stomp for a near-fall.
Baker catches her with a stiff elbow out of nowhere and finally gets the Lockjaw. Riho fights to resist the mandible claw part, but as soon as Baker gets her hand in the champion shifts over for a surprise cradle for the pin to retain.
A good match with a hot closing stretch and a clever finish. It’s hard to envision Riho’s reign going too long, as her title defences will all pretty much follow the same template. But, for a first champ to establish the belt, so far so good.
AEW tag title tournament, first round: Lucha Bros (Pentagon & Fenix) vs Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Marko Stunt)
Stunt is subbing for Luchasaurus, who has a thigh strain. This seems like a no-brainer pick, considering storyline, status and size. But, AEW has done a great job so far of raising the profile of their performers in both victory and defeat so far, so here’s hoping that continues.
And for any potential readers who may happen to base their entire existence off getting that coveted reply or retweet from a senile NWA commentator: this isn’t a fight. This is a wrestling contest in a tournament. “BuT tHeY’rE sMaLl” doesn’t cut it as a put-down. But as with everything, it’s not the what, it’s the how. So it’ll be interesting to see how they portray all involved here.
The Luchas are over-confident from the start, further establishing where they stand after the sneak attack on SCU and giving their diminutive opponents a little extra opening to give the favourites a shock. It leads to some surprising offense from the underdogs, who use their speed and aerials to stun Fenix and Pentagon.
The masked men take control during the break by working over Stunt, but their arrogance once again costs them as Jungle tags in. Finally, the Bros, after being out-lucha’d by their smaller opponents all match, return to their own lucha style and are able to quickly snuff out the threat with vicious offense, finishing with the assisted package piledriver to Stunt.
The story was actually sound, so so-called fans of storytelling in wrestling will only show themselves up by pretending this was against their beliefs. However, I feel as though they could have achieved the very same thing in six minutes that they did here in 12 and established the exact same elements. Plus, I hope Luchasaurus isn’t out for too long. He and Jungle Boy are the real undercard potential there, and Stunt’s presence takes away from Jack Perry’s own deal.
Kenny Omega & Adam Page vs PAC & Jon Moxley
“Happy birthday” chants for Kenny Omega, who kicks this off by jumping Moxley. PAC and Jon quickly establish they’re not exactly pals on this team. Nonetheless, they work over Omega until the Terminator clap-chant from the fans inspires him to reach out to Page.
It isn’t long before Hangman is beaten down by his two opponents, leading to a second hot tag to bring the Cleaner back in. Commentary notes that Page and Omega have had their respective slumps they’re each trying to shake off, and that being targeted by Mox seems to be bringing the best out of Kenny.
All four trade more of their trademark offense with a vigour that really gets the crowd into this one before we get the much-anticipated face-off between just Omega and Moxley. A double knockdown leads to them retreating under the ring for the barbed wire bat and broom from last week.
Moxley appears to have the edge in their stand-off before PAC rushes back in and snatches both weapons away, berating his partner for risking a DQ. That leads to Moxley giving PAC the Death Rider in as Stunnerish a manner as he possibly can, starting with the double birds and getting a big ‘Kick, Wham!’ deal on the move.
PAC recovers enough to realise he’s in deep doo-doo. He’s quickly put back down by Page’s ropeflip lariat, before an Omega V-Trigger sets up Hangman’s Dead Eye reverse piledriver for a much needed pinfall victory.
It doesn’t take long for AEW to confirm PAC vs Moxley for next week, as well as our tag title tournament semi-finals: Lucha Bros vs Private Party & SCU vs Dark Order (who earned a bye in a match that could have easily been another quarter-final match against an eighth duo). Also in action next week: Dr. Britt Baker and The Young Bucks.
AEW World title, Philly Street Fight: Chris Jericho (c) vs Darby Allin
This is Jericho’s first defence. No disqualifications, natch. Jericho is out in face paint as his ‘Painmaker’ persona, which is about as convincing as a Lance Storm chair shot but at least it syncs up with Allin’s regular look. I just hope Dustin Rhodes ditches the half-and half deal ASAP and leaves it to Darby.
The challenger goes straight on the offensive until Jericho catches him coming back into the ring. It doesn’t take the two of them long to establish the veteran/prospect dynamic, and matches like this only serve to further halt the ageing process on Chris’s career. Fresh match-ups with new faces who can bump like a maniac for the champion.
After the break, Jericho remains in control courtesy of a kendo stick. I like that Excalibur emphasised that rope breaks and such still count here: it’s no-DQ, but you still need to beat your opponent via legitimate means. Things like that being clearly established means matches like, say, Falls Count Anywhere can be used quite soon after this and still be completely different. That comes into play when Jericho gets the Walls halfway through the bout, and the crowd boos the break. Some reconditioning is required, but it will pay off.
Allin uses some desperation counter-wrestling to create an opening in which he can get the kendo stick, and he’s back in this one. Jericho introduces a chair to regain the edge, but an attempt at a lawn dart into the chair in the corner is turned into Allin’s floatover stunner for a near-fall.
A second Walls is sunk in deep, but again Darby gets the ropes and again the crowd disapprove. Now, Jericho has duct tape and he uses it to put Darby’s arms behind his back. The challenger soaks up some biels before dodging a charge and wowing the crowd with an Asai moonsault and then a dive to the outside, all with his hands taped.
Next is a hands-free corkscrew senton off the top for a near-fall, but the free-limbed champion is soon back in charge with a powerbomb onto Darby’s own skateboard for two. One last Allin fightback sees him attempt the Coffin Drop, only for Jake Hager to run out and drill Darby with a right hand, setting up a third Walls. With no use of his arms, Allin gives up this time.
Both men worked hard here, but were as restricted as Darby was once the duct tape came into play. The whole ‘no DQs but you still need to win via traditional means’ concept is something that can benefit booking in the long run, but after years of vague lawlessness in mainstream wrestling it’s going to take some time to establish. Second, nobody for one second bought a title change here, and the few near-falls we did get had nothing to them as a result. Lastly, Jericho made a point of distracting the official during the Hager attack. Why? That will only serve to confuse the live and TV audiences further, and make it harder to indeed differentiate the different types of relaxed-rules stipulations on offer.
The show ends with an Inner Circle celebration – and yes, there is a little bit of the bubbly.
Episode 3 was another enjoyable two-hour broadcast. But as AEW tidies up some of the tired tropes of modern-day wrestling television, they go ahead and stumble upon a few more. And I’m not even bothered by the Lucha Bros match as much as some are, but the main event was filled with some of the things from which we’ve been promised All Elite Wrestling will attempt to steer wrestling away. Which is a shame, as it was otherwise a lot of fun watching a veteran star like Jericho mix it up with the Darby Allins.