AEW Champion Kenny Omega and Don Callis on 'AEW: Dynamite'
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AEW: Dynamite isn’t perfect.

Despite record-high ratings last week, still riding the highs of Winter Is Coming, they just can’t all be winners. This week’s show had the intrigue of the Inner Circle, the continued allure of the returning Sting, and more questions about AEW Champion Kenny Omega. But despite a strong start, the show just couldn’t coalesce into a consistently strong outing.

Let’s dive into the hits and misses from this week’s AEW: Dynamite.

Matt Hardy and Private Party took on 'Hangman' Page and the Dark Order on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT – ‘Hangman’ Adam Page, John Silver, & Alex Reynolds Vs. Matt Hardy & Private Party

AEW: Dynamite opened with probably AEW’s most intriguing personal angle. What’s the deal with ‘Hangman’ Page and the Dark Order? I did what the kids call a ‘LOL’ as Silver and Reynolds accompanied the Hangman to the ring, wearing dollar store dusters and comically-tiny cowboy hats.

Less intriguing is the “what’s going on with Matt Hardy?” angle. Having said that, this AEW: Dynamite match turned things up a notch. I love the opposing dynamics of both stories. You’ve got Matt Hardy essentially thriving on the hero worship of Private Party. And on the other side, the cultish Dark Order desperate for a high-profile new member.

This was a fun, fast-paced match, but it never turned into a spotfest. A little consistency will take you a long way. The action didn’t let up, but there was no wasted motion. It seemed like every hit, every Irish whip, every move was part of the story. Private Party scored the win for their team after Hardy set them up to hit Gin & Juice on Reynolds for the pin. Of course, Hardy snuck in a tag to take the pin for himself, but a win’s a win. Honestly, I’m not quite sure where this is going. If I had to guess, it’s Hardy vs. Hangman in the short term and possibly becoming Hangman against a returning Brodie Lee.

I dug this AEW: Dynamite opener a lot.

HIT – MEANWHILE, Episode I

Backstage, Alex Marvez catches up with the Inner Circle. MJF goes overboard offering Jericho praise for putting together Le Dinner Debonair. And Jericho can absolutely not stand it in the least. I love how well these two play how much they hate each other. And I also can’t wait to see how the Inner Circle just completely melts down. In any event, it’s always fun stuff when Jericho and MJF can play it low-key.

Next we get a pretaped segment announcing that Cody and Brandi Rhodes are expecting their first child. Neat! So Cody’s sole preoccupation in life now is to make sure his kids do better than Triple H’s kids, I guess. There comes a time when you just can’t think about yourself, you know?

The dog-lover in me gives extra special props, as the camera pans down to reveal Pharaoh wearing a jacket reading, “Baby Security.” Even the yet-to-be-born baby probably knows to keep dogs away from fireworks and pyrotechnics. Seriously, though, good for them.

Cody battled Angelico on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT – Cody Rhodes (W/ Arn Anderson) Vs. Angelico (W/ Jack Evans)

So this AEW: Dynamite match is basically the blowoff to a mini-feud that started last week. And it’s a really good match. Angelico is one of those guys who can wrestle any style. He and Cody had extremely good chemistry together, putting on some really clever reversals with Angelico looking for the submission advantage throughout.

Really solid finish, with Cody going for Crossroads. Angelico reversed, and Cody had to settle for the cutter to earn the finish. It was a fun match, and it was a good match. I gotta say, though, there has to be another way to book Cody matches besides, “Cody doesn’t take Arn’s advice and it almost costs him the match.” I’m never mad at a good match. Especially knowing there’s a WWE PPV I have to watch this weekend. It doesn’t drag the match down by any means, but it’s a story we’ve told a number of times. And it’s yet to go anywhere.

That’s almost a year of wasted story potential.

Still, Angelico showed himself as a guy who could fill that sort of Joey Janela role. Not The Man in capitals, but a guy with enough credibility to push The Man to a good match, getting both guys over in the process. Pro wrestling: It ain’t hard, y’know?

Sting continued to menace Taz, Cody, and Darby Allin on 'AEW: Dynamite'

After the match, Taz is out to congratulate Cody on being a father. Except not really, ’cause Ricky Starks wants to know where Team Taz gets a congratulatory video for beating down Darby Allin. Taz promises that Cage is going to beat Darby before heading to the ring to face down Cody. Then the lights go out, and Sting emerges from the opposite tunnel. He points the bat toward Taz and his cronies. Can I just point out that I love that Sting has a special pocket in his jacket for his baseball bat? The Stinger offers a staredown for Darby and a wink for Cody.

History shows that a slow-burn, longform Sting story can pay dividends. Here’s hoping it doesn’t have an ending remotely resembling Starrcade 97.

HIT – Promo-Mania!

Backstage, Alex Marvez catches up with Miro, who’s been fined heavily by AEW for his attack on the officials. And he’s also wearing a jacket made entirely of pogs. I’m elderly, Google it. Miro promises a reckoning is coming for Orange Cassidy and the biggest wedding day announcement ever. Wedding? Oh, right, he’s Kip Sabian’s best man. I forgot.

Now we get an Eddie Kingston promo on AEW: Dynamite. Kingston has a lot of enemies, chief among them is God. Has Eddie been talking to Vince McMahon? Anyway, he gloats about putting PAC back out of action before finally getting around to Lance Archer. Apparently calling Lance “goofy” is exactly what it takes to get Lance’s attention. Archer runs out and starts beating Eddie down before Butcher, Blade, and Bunny come out to make the save. The Bunny’s got e feeling some kinda way. The Lucha Bros. come down to make the save, accompanied by PAC.

And it’s a seven-man PIER SIX, BAH GAWD! On the outside, PAC and Archer team up on Kingston while the Luchas kick Butcher and Blade’s respective heads off. The faces are in control until PAC and Archer start arguing over who gets to beat up Kingston. A lot to unpack in this segment, but none of it is hard to follow. The babyfaces put their differences aside and stand together as Eddie and friends beat a path out of town. This was a lot of fun.

MEANWHILE, Dasha interviews Dustin Rhodes backstage. Dustin has no interest in being Seven for the Dark Order. So he’ll face off with Evil Uno on AEW: Dynamite next week.

The Inner Circle stands tall on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT – Best Friends, Varsity Blondes, & Top Flight Vs. The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, MJF, Jake Hager, Santana, Ortiz, Sammy Guevara)

Heh. Orange Cassidy joins the AEW: Dynamite broadcast team for commentary. And promptly puts on a headset that isn’t even plugged in. Actually, he’s holding the cables in his hand. Subtlety, kids. Subtlety.

This wasn’t the best match ever from a workrate perspective. Like, it’s not gonna win any Match of the Year awards. But it was a master class in getting young guys over. In the weeks since they got hyped up by the Young Bucks on their debut, I wasn’t terribly impressed by Top Flight. They came out of this match looking like legit superstars. In fact, Garrison, Pillman, and both guys from Top Flight came away looking like a million bucks. It was an awesome story of the plucky underdogs taking the fight all the way to the bad guys.

But coming up just short. Jericho, heel extraordinaire, finally has enough of the kids showing him up. So he takes a bat to Garrison, leading Hager to hit the F10. MJF sneaks in and takes the pin, and he and Jericho immediately start beating down Garrison until Top Flight runs in for the save. This was a lot of fun. There were the young kids getting over, the Best Friends getting to play the veteran babyfaces for a change, and some teases about the current state of the Inner Circle. I say again, you can do a lot of things in a single match without it becoming an incomprehensible mess. Kudos, AEW: Dynamite.

Backstage, Thunder Rosa is tired of people saying she doesn’t belong in AEW. Reba wanders in to talk a little smack, but it’s a SWERVE, BRO! Dr. Britt Baker rushes in and cinches in the Lockjaw before rubbing off Rosa’s makeup. She departs, telling Rosa she’s so ugly she broke the camera. Geeze, that’s a little harsh. Seriously, why isn’t the chase for the AEW women’s title this intense? It’s not like this is AEW or anything.

SCU took on the Acclaimed on 'AEW: Dynamite'

MISS – SCU Vs. The Acclaimed

Speaking of tag teams we’ve spent a lot of time building on AEW: Dynamite. The Acclaimed is another team that just smacks of “third tier NXT tag team” to me. And after this week, I think my initial assessment might be generous. This just did not click in the slightest.

I get that this is the Acclaimed’s first shot on AEW: Dynamite. They’re used to the minimal-consequence environment of AEW Dark. But these guys were just deer-in-the-headlights tonight, and even SCU couldn’t pull them up to scratch. Well, let it be said that AEW doesn’t always get it right. Despite having the legit best tag team division in all of pro wrestling. The Acclaimed picks up the win, and they’ll challenge the Bucks for the tag team titles next week. That could be their make-or-break match for a while.

There’s some raw potential here, but this just feels like it’s too soon to pit these guys against the champs. At least too soon for me to take such a challenge seriously.

Backstage, Top Flight isn’t too happy about Jericho stealing the match from them. So they challenge Le Champion and MJF to a match on next week’s show. See, that I’m excited for. These guys got a prime-time slot and made the most of it. Talk about night-and-day.

Ivelissa and Diamante ready for action on 'AEW: Dynamite'

MISS – Ivelisse & Diamante Vs. Big Swole & Serena Deeb

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that three of these women were tearing it up in the Women’s Tag Team Cup. And now? Not so much.

This wasn’t awful, but it did shine a big light on how AEW: Dynamite just can’t focus when it comes to their women’s division. The NWA Women’s Championship is more coveted than the AEW title. Then you’ve got Hikaru Shida in denial about being scared of the zombie lady. And here, an ancillary feud loosely connected to Jade Cargill beating up Brandi Rhodes. Wait, what?

There really just wasn’t a whole lot going on here. Swole picks up the win after a god-awful powerbomb into a cloverleaf. The match wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t either impressive or important. Nyla Rose comes down to beat down the good guys, so Red Velvet runs in to make the save. Predictably, nobody cares. Seriously, I don’t know what the thought process is behind any of this. We spent most of this year with the women’s division having highs and lows. It’s not really have either right now. The division is just completely directionless.

Backstage, the Best Friends don’t sound too happy about Miro’s announcement about a wedding announcement. Honest to whatever, they’re fighting over an arcade game. Then again, if we get something as good as the Parking Lot Fight somewhere down the road, I’m all for it.

MISS – Kenny Omega (W/ Don Callis) Vs. Joey Janela (W/ Sonny Kiss)

I, like Tony Schiavone, do not care about whatever AEW has going on with Impact Wrestling. But man, is this Omega/Callis act just sheer perfection. It’s like Heyman and Lesnar if Lesnar also had a personality. Case-in-point, Callis grabs a mic and does commentary during the match and occasionally puts the mic to Omega so Kenny can do his own commentary. Terrific. Just terrific.

This is sheer garbage wrestling, and it just didn’t have anything going on. I’m loving Omega’s direction right now, but the character is better served dodging matches right now. And getting dragged kicking and screaming into most contests, especially matches of the no-DQ variety. Then, if he’s GONNA get dragged into a match like this, he needs to just be murdering Janela. It’s so weird – they improved some facets of the Heyman/Lesnar dynamic, completely dropped the ball on others. Kenny picks up the win with the One-Winged Angel.

After the match, Death Triangle runs out for the save. And PAC makes an announcement for the December 30 AEW: Dynamite. Rey Fenix will challenge Omega for the AEW Championship. PUT THAT MATCH THROUGH MY EYES AND INTO MY BRAIN RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

Awesome main event to look forward to. Hopefully it’ll wash out the taste of how much this one sucked.

Death Triangle stands together on 'AEW: Dynamite'

The Breakdown

Wow, what a lopsided AEW: Dynamite.

That first hour had me pumped. Probably some of the best pro wrestling, from a booking and storytelling standpoint, that I’ve seen in a long time. And the action itself was pretty good to boot. Then the second hour rolled around, and it was just straight trash.

A couple high points, like Kenny Omega and Britt Baker playing their characters to sheer perfection. But the action, if you can call it that, was just an absolute slog. Even great wrestling shows like AEW: Dynamite are entitled to an off week. But this was ridiculous.

Full match results and ratings:

Matt Hardy & Private Party def. ‘Hangman’ Page & The Dark Order, *** 1/2

Cody Rhodes def. Angelico, ***

The Inner Circle def. Best Friends, Varsity Blondes, & Top Flight,  ** 3/4

The Acclaimed def. SCU, * 1/2

Big Swole & Serena Deeb def. Ivelisse & Diamante, *

Kenny Omega def. Joey Janela, * /14

Next week’s AEW: Dynamite will air at 10PM/ET, immediately following the NBA, on TNT.

All images provided by All Elite Wrestling.

'AEW: Dynamite' - December 16, 2020

0.00
6.9

In-Ring Action

6.5/10

Booking/Writing

7.3/10

Storyteling

7.0/10

Entertainment Value

6.8/10

Pros

  • Kenny Omega is an incredible heel.
  • Orange Cassidy made me laugh so hard I snorted.
  • The dynamic between the Hangman and the Dark Order is fantastic.
  • Cody, Team Taz, Darby, and Sting. Where's it going?

Cons

  • Seriously, what's with the women's division?
  • The whole second half of this show was dreadful.
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