2020 begins with 'AEW: Dynamite' coming home to Jacksonville
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AEW: Dynamite began 2020 in their home base of Jacksonville.

Last year was a huge debut for All Elite Wrestling. And the new year begins with new questions.

Will ‘Hangman’ Adam Page and Kenny Omega avoid going head-to-head? And would Jon Moxley accept AEW Champion Chris Jericho’s offer to join the Inner Circle? Did AEW find their Women’s Champion, Riho?

Most important, though, could Cody finally continue his angle with MJF and ditch the going-nowhere stuff with the Butcher and the Blade?

All of the above found answers in the first AEW: Dynamite of 2020.

Taz appeared on the Homecoming edition of 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Taz In The Booth

Former ECW Champion and WWE star Taz stood in for Tony Schiavone this week, and AEW continues their streak of bringing us commentators who haven’t lost a step.

I’m not aware of Taz’s presence being anything other than a one-off, but it was cool to hear his less-than-polished broadcasting voice again. What he lacks in broadcasting acumen, he makes up for in terms of making the commentary seem relevant and credible.

It wasn’t a game-changer by any means, but hearing him call the action on AEW: Dynamite was definitely exciting.

Nothing against the guy, but can we get rid of Excalibur and go with JR, Tony, and Taz?

HIT — Cody Vs. Darby Allin

If you can say nothing else about the kid, nobody plays “tortured, broken soul” better than Darby Allin these days.

This match has its roots in Fyter Fest from this past summer, when Cody and Allin wrestled to a time-limit draw. The match was basically forgotten due to the chairshot from Shawn Spears that pretty much went nowhere and did nothing for anybody.

Cody coming out with Arn Anderson as a manager was a neat little bit of nostalgia, but I don’t feel like it fits. The guy was a member of the Horsemen when they were blood enemies of Dusty Rhodes. Plus, Cody doesn’t need a manager. His character doesn’t need one, and his status as the most over babyface in the company doesn’t call for a second. Just weird.

Anyway, the match was great and — go figure — another outstanding opener for AEW: Dynamite. Allin played heel for the match, and he got the AEW crowd to boo him a couple of times.

Fantastic spot, as Allin brought the story full circle, hitting the Coffin Drop on Cody on the apron, a spot he missed in sickening fashion back at Fyter Fest. Anderson figured in the finish, giving Cody a signal to lift his knees to counter a move from Allin to pick up the win.

Arn didn’t need to be there from a storytelling standpoint, but AEW booked him to act like a coach. Good stuff. And Darby Allin’s star is only going to keep rising.

Riho defended the women's championship in a 4-way match on 'AEW: Dynamite'

MISS — AEW Women’s Championship Match

Okay, somebody explain AEW’s “ranking” system to me. All rankings were reset with the start of the new year. In this match, Riho defended the women’s championship against contenders ranked 2-4, Hikaru Shida, Britt Baker, and Nyla Rose, respectively. Why does Kris Statlander, the number-one contender, have to wait for three other women to get a shot?

Wait, if they were reset, then how are there any ranked women in the division, and oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed.

At least somebody found Riho. Those milk carton pictures paid off.

This match was all over the place.

In a lot of ways, this match on AEW: Dynamite was a microcosm of what an inconsistent mess the booking in the women’s division is. It’s cool that Nyla Rose can do back-bodydrops on people through tables. But if AEW is going to push her as a monster, she needs to be murdering people in five-minute squashes.

Riho defended what was, overall, a pretty decent match. Rose attacked Riho after the match, putting her through a table (presumably to get back some of that “monster” credibility). Unfortunately, her whole character is now based around being a sore loser. Key word being “loser.”

I still have no reason to think Riho is a credible champion, and as a result, nobody came across as a credible challenger. This is a mess that needs cleaning up as soon as possible.

HIT — Janella “Interview,” Dark Order Promo

AEW: Dynamite looks to be putting together a feud with Joey Janella and Kip Sabian. It might be an undercard feud, but it’s a good fit for both guys. Also, Penelope Ford hit poor Janella in the nuts really hard.

Then there’s the Dark Order segment.

Before we go any further, let’s address the Dark Order elephant in the room. The botched punches from the December 18, 2019, AEW: Dynamite. It’s wrestling. Sometimes punches look bad. It isn’t anything we don’t see in WWE programming on a weekly basis. The blame rests as much with the production guys in the truck as it does with the guys in the ring.

My mind’s boggled by the fact that nobody shouted, “Cut to another camera, cut to another camera!”

Anyway, the intrigue cranked up to 11 with the hinting of an “exalted one.” AEW: Dynamite is unparalleled in American pro wrestling when it comes to advancing storylines.

Moxley made his allegiance known to Jericho on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Moxley Vs. Trent, The Inner Circle Sweetens The Offer

It started with a long, extended match between Jon Moxley and Trent.

Trent looked strong, but the point was for Moxley to look like All Elite Wrestling’s number-one contender on AEW: Dynamite. Wait, I thought the rankings were reset with the start of the new ye- nevermind.

Anyway, Moxley gave Trent his spots and helped him get over and gain a little credibility. Although, as hot as the tag team division is, I’m not sure why the Best Friends are rocking so many singles matches.

Moxley picked up the win in convincing fashion, as he should have. But the real heat of the segment came after the match.

Sammy Guevara came out and hammed it up exquisitely to remind Moxley of Jericho’s offer two weeks ago on AEW: Dynamite to join the Inner Circle.

Jericho cut a killer promo on the big screen, offering Moxley 49% of the Inner Circle’s merchandise as well as a Ford GT, which is every bit as over-the-top and insane as it sounds. And it’s glorious. Here’s hoping they keep ratcheting up the drama, as Moxley pledged to give his answer next week.

Guevara and Rhodes did battle on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Dustin Rhodes Vs. Sammy Guevara

With Guevara already in the ring, Dustin Rhodes made his way out for a sneak attack to start their singles match on AEW: Dynamite.

Once again, this is more great storytelling, tying up a loose end from an angle between the Rhodes brothers and the Inner Circle from the Full Gear build-up.

But AEW was smart enough not to tie this one all the way up, as Jake Hager made his way out to distract Rhodes.

This was an awesome back-and-forth match, as Dustin Rhodes continues to be better than he has any right to be. The guy hasn’t let up since he battled his brother at Double Or Nothing.

Rhodes is like 437 years old, and he hit a Canadian destroyer on the ring apron. No, seriously.

And Guevara has held up his end of the deal, looking credible (that’s a key word tonight) as the Inner Circle star that Jericho “found.”

Hager ran in for the low blow, giving Guevara a big win over a big name. This match was everything pro wrestling is all about. The up-and-comer got a big win, and a major feud (hoss fight incoming!) was advanced.

Picture-perfect segment on AEW: Dynamite.

MJF laid out the stipulations for his match against Cody

HIT — MJF Sets The Stipulations

As always, a disclaimer is in order. An AEW: Dynamite segment that involves MJF and a microphone is predisposed to be a hit.

The Salt of the Earth made his way out to announce his chosen stipulations for his match against Cody at the Revolution pay-per-view in February.

Per MJF, Cody can’t lay a hand on MJF before the match, he has to beat Wardlow in a cage match first (not a bad page to steal from Goldberg vs. Hogan), and he has to take 10 lashes from MJF with a leather belt. Okay, that one was weird.

The segment was boring exposition, but MJF’s delivery kept it interesting. And I like the idea of Cody having to go through hell before he even gets to the match.

More great stuff from AEW: Dynamite.

MISS — Jurassic Express Interview, Riho Interview

Backstage, the Jurassic Express gets interviewed about Jungle Boy’s match with Jericho on the last AEW: Dynamite of 2019.

Unfortunately, somebody in the truck doesn’t know how to do audio, so we couldn’t hear about a third of it. Then there’s a backstage segment with Britt Baker interrupting an interview with Riho. Which we also miss a third of.

That’s bush league crap, and they need to iron that out.

It’s been almost four months, guys. Get it together.

MISS — The Elite Vs. Pac And The Lucha Bros

So, there is some good in this segment. Adam Page did commentary to advance the angle on his rocky relationship with Omega.

Pac and Omega in the ring at the same time is a good thing.

But I think I’ve had my fill of six-man AEW: Dynamite main events with the Elite and insert-three-guys-here.

The match was strong, but the only story being progressed in the match had something to do with some “crisis of confidence” the Elite is going through. Here’s my big issue with that. The Elite is only known as a “faction” to people who know wrestling history. Never on AEW: Dynamite has it been defined who all comprises the Elite.

And AEW can’t seem to make up its mind on whether or not Page is part of the Elite. He left the group on the Being The Elite YouTube show, and now he’s back in? But he’s not really? This is where it’s reminding me of Star Wars. I shouldn’t have to do homework to understand a television story. Watching the television show should be sufficient.

The match was, well, it was pretty much the same as every other Elite six-man. Which is to say it was fine. It was really good, even. It just didn’t have anything to do with anything.

Only Pac’s desire to get his rubber match with Omega wasn’t really advanced by this segment. And the Bucks and the Luchas has been done to death.

The Elite picked up the win, and the crowd loved it. But there’s nothing to pick up on coming out of this match.

AEW - All Elite Wrestling

The Breakdown

Six hits, three misses for the 2020 debut of AEW: Dynamite.

The stuff that worked did so incredibly well. But the stuff that didn’t work didn’t work at all.

AEW’s women’s division is in dire need of work, and some decisions need to be made about whether the Elite is a real group or not.

Then there are those production woes, which make the promotion come across as amateur hour crap.

More good than bad, and still an enjoyable show. But AEW: Dynamite is starting to show some minor cracks in its armor.

AEW: Dynamite airs Wednesday nights at 8 PM/ET on TNT.

All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.

'AEW: Dynamite' - January 1, 2020

8

In-Ring Action

7.9/10

Booking/Writing

9.0/10

Promos/Video Packages

7.0/10

Entertainment Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Jericho vs. Moxley is going to be an epic feud
  • Cody got his groove back
  • Sammy Guevara is going to be a huge star
  • MJF doing MJF

Cons

  • The Women's Division is spinning its wheels at this point
  • Inexcusable production woes
  • Main Event was all flash, no substance
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