This week, the AEW tag title semi-finals tell us which two teams face off for the right to be the first ever champions. Plus, Jon Moxley and PAC will butt heads after last week’s disastrous attempt to work together as a team.
And we are straight down to the ring, cold, with both Private Party and the Lucha Bros already in the ring! If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was a spot of malicious compliance after my criticism of the slow starts to episodes one and two. But no, tonight’s card is jam-packed so it straight to the action we go.
AEW Tag Team Tournament, semi-final: Private Party vs Lucha Bros
PP upset the Young Bucks in a banger on week two. The Bros took care of Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt in perhaps 2019’s most polarising wrestling match seven days ago. And to further antagonise that pocket of the wrestling community, a gymnastic-style lucha exchange gets us started. Wrestling isn’t just a fight, it’s an athletic chess match. So, I’m down with that. Especially as Party once again look like a million dollars as they control the early going.
The Luchas get back into it with high-flying of their own, a throwback to what got them through the quarters after being stunned by Jurassic Express at first. Marc Quen, particularly impressive throughout, uses a handspring backflip to escape a rana (!) and then stumbles into Isiah Kassidy for the hot tag.
PP get near-falls from Kassidy’s slingshot crucifix bomb and Quen’s beautiful SSP, but after another close one on a pop-up rana launch into a mid-air cutter to Fenix, Pentagon is next for the same double-team but counters to a destroyer! Fenix ropewalk kick and Pentagon armbreaker leads to the assisted package piledriver and the Luchas are in the finals.
If you’re lucha-tolerant, you’re going to love this one. Great first semi-final.
We’re told Christopher Daniels is recovering after his attack at the hands of the Luchas last week, and will miss 6-8 weeks. This segues us nicely into…
AEW Tag Team Tournament, semi-final: SCU (Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) vs The Dark Order
Reasons Why Dark Order’s Bye Makes No Sense, Part #46: Excalibur explained during the opener how Private Party may suffer from having a week off after the high of their upset over the Young Bucks. And yet, DO won a match to ‘earn a bye’ before the tournament started. So, after having to win one match to reach the semis like everyone else, they’ve had more downtime than anyone else and by Excalibur logic are at a disadvantage, right? Just give everyone a quarter-final!
It’s Kaz and Sky again here, unsurprising given the Daniels injury news but AEW were unavailable for comment when asked whether SCU would be forced to stick to the duo that started the tournament anyway. Scorp’s in wrestling gear, having had time to prepare this week, and it’s cool matching blue gear to boot. Excalibur hints at Evil Uno and Stu Grayson’s former personas while talking of their ‘mysterious disappearance’ for a while.
Unfortunately, after making a big deal about no seconds at ringside in the tournament so far, Dark Order have a fleet of masked minions in their corner and they waste no time interfering behind the ref’s back. So close to sticking to your guns in an admirable manner, AEW. So close…
As expected, DO work over SCU in the classic dynamic. Meanwhile, Chris Jericho leads the Inner Circle through the crowd and into a skybox just before Sky uses a duck-under neckbreaker to finally escape DO’s clutches and bring in Kaz. The crowd are too distracted by the Circle to really get into this hot tag, but some fluid stereo offense to both DO members – including stereo slingshot cutters and stereo dragon sleepers – pulls the live audience back in.
Grayson hits an impressive dive to Kaz on the outside in the midst of a game of counters with Sky, leaving Uno to hit Scorpio with a move so convulted Jim Ross thought the big man was countering Sky’s own offense. Fatality is broken up, however, and Kaz wipes out Uno with a launched DDT onto the apron before SCU hit a much better looking variation of their knee strike double team than last week to join the Luchas in the finals.
There was some enjoyable action in this one, but between the Order’s entourage and these tournament matches all following a loose template of structure and a lot of very similar moves (assisted powerbombs, assisted DDTs, some sort of aerial cutter, and so on and so forth), it was missing something. Plus, the Luchas/SCU storyline has telegraphed the finals to oblivion.
The final will give us our first tag team champions next week, which is curious as neither side are doing anything for Full Gear, their PPV on November 9th, thus far. But, I guess it may strengthen weekly continuity and retain that solid viewership base of over one million. Not that their continuity has been ever-present thus far on Dynamite.
Kenny Omega vs Joey Janela
These two had a no-disqualification dark match, as you do, that went down a treat online via AEW Dark and YouTube. So now, the rematch! In a regular contest. It’s novel, I’ll give them that. This was supposed to be Janela vs Jack Evans until they chose to give us these two one more time. Gives Evans and Angelico more to moan about, I guess.
Inner Circle are still shown watching from their box. Jericho doesn’t like Omega, natch. Though I did like his neat touch earlier to break from IC’s mostly-belligerent appearance to applaud the end of the SCU match, which was pretty hot.
Omega and Janela walk a line of disappointing the TV audience somewhat after going all-out in that lawless battle, but for the most part their regular match is a good one. And credit to Excalibur for doing his best to tie the reverse order of their match stips into the storyline of The Cleaner, explaining that the unsanctioned match snapped Kenny out of his funk and rediscovered his edge. It was more about that than actually hating Janela, who also loves a weapons scrap, we’re told.
Janela gets a lot of offense in this one and is able to establish himself as a formidable adversary even without the gimmicks, just as Jimmy Havoc did against Darby Allin on episode two. However he misses a downright-stupid top rope somersault onto the apron (more needless apron bumps, yay!) and he’s easy pickings for the V-Trigger and One Winged Angel as Omega sweeps the mini-series.
Omega and Janela are respectful after the bout as Excalibur notes the win pulls Omega above a .500 win/loss record (meaning he’s won more than half, at 4-3) and puts that over as an important thing, which I like. They did a good job establishing that these two can go at it in any type of match and still regard it as just competition, but it runs the risk of knocking some gleam off actual grudge matches when they come into full bloom such as, say, Daniels’ return to confront the Luchas and any full-on war between the Inner Circle and The Elite.
Next, Cody is fully-suited in the ring for an interview with Tony Schiavone. They hype that Cody has a big announcement, but the Circle ruin it with airhorns from their box, ha! Cody then gets in his mandatory mention of “The Other Place” (coming soon to CBS!) before threatening to head up there and kick their asses. Jericho mocks Cody as a “millennial little bitch” and notes it’s 4-on-1 (no Jake Hager, training for his next Bellator fight). Dustin Rhodes and MJF make it 4-on-3 until Diamond Dallas Page of all people evens it up.
They do indeed head up to the box, where IC barricade themselves in until Cody cleverly wraps MJF’s scarf around his fist to punch through the glass! Take note, Goldberg. The fight is on up in the hospitality area, and it spills out into the concourse where Cody dunks Jericho’s head into a vat of ice cream before security finally breaks things up.
That was a really fun and different way to do a mass donnybrook, with a few nods to classic moments such as the concession stand brawls of the good old days and the ‘4-on-1 into 4-on-4’ trope to force a sudden disappearance of the champion’s bravado.
The Young Bucks vs The Best Friends
Orange Cassidy is at ringside this time for the BFs. He gets in the Bucks’ faces before the match, and responds to a shove with his own take on a superkick to each. That is, he half-heartedly brings his foot up to the shins of Nick and Matt. That earns him a proper double superkick. Trent and Chuck attack and the match begins.
Best Friends work over the Bucks after taking advantage of a Cassidy distraction at ringside. Orange works as a ringside second, I’ll say that. Schiavone and JR give Excalibur some friendly needle for his vivid descriptions while putting over the BFs as characters. It brought back memories of Schiavone’s borderline-patronising tone with Mike Tenay during WCW broadcasts 20 years ago.
More Cassidy interference – with his hands in his pockets the whole time – look to lead to the finish for the Friends but Matt uses an impressive flip to counter yet another doomsday finishing move in AEW before getting a superkick party started. More Bang For Your Buck ends it soon after.
This was fun, and gives the Bucks a win while further establishing the Best Friends’ (perfectly fine) role on the card. Any complaints to be had fall under the same umbrella as the rest of the product: minor tweaks that would be appreciated going forward to avoid much of the tag division coming off as quite samey. Post-match, the Bucks accept Santana and Ortiz’s challenge for Full Gear.
Dr. Britt Baker vs Jamie Hayter
Homecoming match for Pittsburgh’s Baker, who brings a local sports mascot out just to make sure she gets that pop. Hayter is introduced as a tag partner and associate of Britt’s rival Bea Priestley. You can tell she’s friends with Bea because she isn’t covered in bruises.
Hayter has a very slight size advantage but they play it up as significant in this one. It’s all Jamie for a while, including an entire commercial break, until Baker fights back before a superkick sets up Lockjaw for an almost-instant submission.
Much like Luchas-Jurassic last week, this one would have worked much better following the same structure but at half the length. The fans were into their home hope getting a recovery win after missing out on the women’s title and nine minutes was too long to get there. But, Baker remains over and at times appears even more showcased than Riho, the champion.
We’re back for an interview with Hayter, who lost the match. She isn’t even able to finish cutting off the interviewer when she’s blindsided by Brandi Rhodes. Uhh… what?
Jon Moxley vs PAC
It’s TV time remaining for this one. Moxley has Omega at the PPV in what started as a grudge but is fast turning into a Kenny/Janela ‘sporting violence’ deal. That makes the glass table spot on episode one even more daft. PAC, meanwhile, is the true villainous aspect of the feud, having run-ins with both.
PAC blindsides Moxley during his entrance, as a receipt for Mox hitting the Death Rider – or, apparently, what Excalibur is calling the Paradigm Shift in AEW – and after a moment of doubt if the match will happen, Jon rushes the ring and we’re underway.
Thanks to the attack, Mox is battling from underneath from the start. PAC drills him with a dive as JR melodramatically pleads for the referee to take a look at Moxley and make a call. The attack angle gives us a good dynamic here, as the far-from-innocent and unpredictable Moxley is thrust into a sympathetic scenario. He’s also really selling this as a head injury, though the word ‘concussion’ isn’t once uttered by the broadcast team.
Justin Roberts is counting down the remaining TV time minute-by-minute in a nice touch, albeit one that’s telegraphing the finish. PAC draws deserved gasps with a 450 splash from the apron to the floor, but the Black Arrow misses as we enter the final 60 seconds of the broadcast. Jon covers PAC for two before hitting the Paradigm Shift bang on the 30 second mark. Cover in the 10-second countdown – and PAC kicks out! Kudos, that made it a little less predictable. The bell sounds and that’s our first curfew.
This was a good main event, and a breath of fresh air after a host of tag matches that while very good shared far too many traits to stand out. I’m actually glad to see the curfew function put to good use, and that near-fall in the last 10 seconds made me think that maybe the time limit draw wasn’t so obvious for a moment. Hopefully, AEW are clever in their use of that going forward.
Post-match, a frustrated Moxley hits his finish on the ref, too.
After AEW were able to solidify a very good rating over the first three weeks, it seems they are also solidifying their TV episode style. For four straight outings, Dynamite has had far too much quality to not check it out, but now that the majority of the tag tournament is finished there will hopefully be more variety in the action within each episode. Plus, little inconsistencies continue to frustrate, with pretty much everything about the Dark Order making zero sense and denting the enjoyment of the tag tourney. It’s initially baffling that the usual suspects would target Marko Stunt and not the DO’s numerous logic flaws, but then it isn’t that baffling when you really think about it and the MO of those looking to garner attention by attacking Stunt.
Next week, we get our first tag champions. And given the issues between SCU and the Lucha Bros, that match should at least have an extra layer on top of the ad-break heat session, exchange of tag finishers and gravity-defying cutter variations. Hopefully we’ll also get some sort of interaction between Omega and Moxley, as that feud is at threat of cooling off before the blow-off at Full Gear.
On a pass-fail, however, there hasn’t been a single episode that has fallen short of the mark. Here’s hoping for a more focused build to the PPV and a little more individuality over the next couple of episodes.