Tony Schiavone perplexed as Dr. Britt Baker runs down the 'AEW: Dynamite' crowd
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AEW: Dynamite continues on the road to the February 29 pay-per-view AEW Revolution.

But the road is looking pretty bumpy.

All Elite Wrestling maintained its history of strong in-ring action, but there were some storytelling snafus very uncharacteristic of the young wrestling promotion.

There was undoubtedly some fantastic pro wrestling, but a lot of it didn’t serve the purpose of the stories as well as it should have.

Were those storytelling deficiencies enough to make this week’s AEW: Dynamite a bad show? Let’s light the fuse and find out.

HIT – AEW Tag Team Championship: Kenny Omega & Hangman Page (C) Vs. SCU

Kenny Omega and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page are set to defend the tag titles to open AEW: Dynamite. But they’re interrupted by the Dark Order on the big screen. Evil Uno warns that there are more members of the Dark Order than anyone knows, and some of them might be closer than either team thinks.

Christopher Daniels volunteers to run backstage and try to head the Order off at the pass. JR rightly mentions that it’s suspicious. Well, I guess that rules Daniels out as the Exalted One. I’m positively broken.

See what I did there?

The match, of course, was great. SCU does a good job of playing heels. But this match is cementing for me that I’m not as impressed with Kenny Omega as I thought I would be at this point. The guy’s like the Tim Duncan of pro wrestling – everything he does is solid, and none of it looks good.

That is, until Omega and Page score the win with a Buckshot Lariat/V-Trigger combo. That was cool.

AEW: Dynamite keeps the pending dissent within the Elite subtle, as Page and Omega exit the ringside area separately. That’s a story that needs a little movement with just a couple of weeks before AEW Revolution. But it’s also good not to beat the audience over the head with it.

After the match, the Dark Order comes out to attack SCU. I guess Daniels didn’t find them. But Best Friends (minus the Freshly-Squeezed One) come out to make the save. And before you know it, all of the competitors in next week’s Tag Team Battle Royal head out (including the Young Bucks), and we get a mini preview of what’s to come.

Again, AEW: Dynamite proves itself by telling multiple stories with one segment. Solid stuff, and a great kickoff to the show.

HIT — Jim Ross Interview W/ Santana

JR has a pre-taped sit-down interview with Santana about the latter’s main event match against Jon Moxley.

Santana tells a story about his upbringing and how his father started going blind at 14, a not-so-subtle subtext for the eye-for-an-eye match.

This was cool on a number of levels. Again, AEW: Dynamite balances a number of plates with one segment. We get a glimpse of Santana as a person, as a character, instead of just Jericho’s muscle. And we also get an inventive way to build a big match.

A really strong segment, and a great showing of Santana’s personality on AEW: Dynamite.

HIT — Darby Allin Video

As much as I used to look forward to the Dark Order vignettes on AEW: Dynamite, I think I look forward to Darby Allin’s more.

This was pretty simple. It looked like it was shot in his driveway, with Darby throwing one cue card after another on the ground at his skateboard, promising retribution on Sammy Guevara.

And finally firming up another match for AEW Revolution. Thank God – I was starting to worry the whole show was going to be Moxley vs. Jericho and MJF vs. Cody.

Anyway, this was a fun and inventive way to keep Darby Allin alive in the minds of the AEW: Dynamite audience.

Jake Hager and Dustin Rose face off on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Sammy Guevara Vs. Dustin Rhodes

Speaking of Sammy Guevara. And speaking of setting up matches for AEW Revolution.

This is a rematch from the New Year’s Day episode of AEW: Dynamite, which saw Jake Hager interfere and cost Dustin the win.

Y’know, as big a mark as I am for MJF, I think there’s no more punchable heel in pro wrestling than Sammy Guevara. He does such a fantastic job of playing a complete and total a-hole. Sammy’s a coward, he’s arrogant, and he’s a spoiled little Jericho-butt-kissing snot.

As for Dustin, at the risk of repeating myself, he’s as good if not better now than he was 25 years ago.

Sammy keeps up the advantage for most of this AEW: Dynamite match, thanks mostly to Hager serving as the equalizer. But Hager’s interference isn’t enough to get Guevara the win. And Dustin – at 50-plus years old – picks up the win with a Canadian destroyer into the Final Reckoning.

Hager and Sammy make their way toward the back, but Dustin grabs a mic and officially challenges Hager to a match at AEW Revolution. But not before taking some cheap shots at Hager’s MMA career.

HIT — Britt Baker Interview

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t expect to hear detailed dental analysis on a wrestling show.

Tony Schiavone interviews Dr. Britt Baker, who justifies knocking out Yuka Sakazaki’s teeth on last week’s AEW: Dynamite by saying they needed to come out due to severe decay.

I shouldn’t have laughed, but I absolutely did.

After regaining control of the interview, Tony asks Baker’s thoughts of the upcoming AEW Women’s Championship match between Riho and Nyla Rose. Long story short, Dr. Baker wants the winner.

Britt Baker had this crowd booing her every inflection. Eating out of the palm of her hand. It’s so satisfying that AEW: Dynamite finally has a strong, defined character in the women’s division.

Sorry I doubted you, Dr. Baker.

Nyla Rose claims the gold on 'AEW: Dynamite'

NEAR MISS — AEW Women’s Championship Match: Riho (C) Vs. Nyla Rose

This match was not great. It was a gigantic squash match for Nyla Rose.

But it was an AEW: Dynamite match that was exactly what it needed to be. With precisely the right finish.

After four months of what could charitably be called an underwhelming title reign, Riho was dethroned as the AEW Women’s Champion.

The prematch recap package, showing Rose destroying wrestler after wrestler (usually three weeks to a month between each one) is somewhat too-little-too-late in terms of making this match seem like it’s been a long time coming. It was a match with no real build, but it had to happen.

That belt had to come off of Riho, because it’s almost been like it doesn’t even exist for four months.

Nyla Rose should have destroyed Riho from bell-to-bell. Instead, Riho nailed back-to-back snapdragon suplexes on someone twice her size. Talk about stretching credibility. This match smelled of Kenny Omega’s booking and producing.

And then there’s Rose trying to use a table. I need somebody to explain to me how a challenger with a 100-plus advantage of their 98-pound opponent would think they needed to set up a table in the first place.

The booking of this match was a mess, but it had the right outcome. Now it’s up to the AEW: Dynamite creative team to book the new champion right.

But you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

HIT — Jeff Cobb Intro Video

Next up is a video package announcing the pending arrival of former ROH star Jeff Cobb. AEW Champion Chris Jericho announces that he scoured the globe looking for an assassin to take out Moxley.

It was short and sweet, but it gave new viewers a glimpse of what Cobb can do in the ring.

Think a one-man Heavy Machinery, but without the goofy and with all the athleticism and then some.

I like that it’s a stark contrast from the other AEW: Dynamite video packages we’ve seen in the past. No subtlety or ambiguity, no indie-film expressionism. Just, “Here’s a wrestler, here’s his name, he’s coming.”

Plain and simple.

MJF victorious on 'AEW: Dynamite'

MISS — MJF Vs. Jungle Boy

The day has come.

I’ve deemed an MJF segment on AEW: Dynamite as a miss. Not because the match was bad. The match was good, and both guys looked like a million bucks. In fact, I’d like to see more of them going one-on-one, as they had great chemistry in the ring.

And for Pete’s sake, JR, the guy’s name is JUNGLE BOY. Let me make the point a little louder for the folks in the back: You are undermining his character!

But this match was antithetical to MJF’s character. We just saw the guy savage Cody with ten lashes last week – MJF doesn’t need a tune-up leading up to the pay-per-view. And Brandi doing commentary and trash-talking MJF doesn’t do much to sell it, because I’m still trying to figure out why she isn’t a hair-cutting crazy person anymore.

This was a match with no issue, no heat. It doesn’t do anything to advance the feud with Cody, and it does even less for Jungle Boy or anyone else in the Jurassic Express.

If this was all AEW: Dynamite could come up with as a placeholder between now and next week’s cage match between Cody and Wardlow, they might as well have done nothing at all.

It would’ve had the same impact.

Eye For An Eye - Moxley punished on 'AEW: Dynamite'

MISS — Jon Moxley Vs. Santana

Again, I have similar issues with this match as I had with MJF vs. Jungle Boy.

I’ve been liking the trajectory of the Moxley vs. Jericho feud on AEW: Dynamite. But hindsight  is 20/20. Heh – get it? ‘Cause both guys have eye patches? I’ll see myself out.

Anyway, after watching the last couple weeks, it’s clear that AEW has booked this feud in reverse. Moxley should’ve mowed through the Inner Circle and then had Jericho try to gouge his eye out. It would’ve made for a more gradual raising of the stakes, and we’d just now be at a fevered pitch in the feud en route to AEW Revolution.

Things being what they are, though, this match was really, really good. It just doesn’t make sense (to me) to have Moxley earn his stripes against the Inner Circle once he’s already the top contender.

It had the right finish, as Moxley put Santana down with the Paradigm Shift before facing the five-on-one assault from the Inner Circle.

Jeff Cobb debuts with the Inner Circle on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Jeff Cobb Debuts

At least it was a five-on-one until Jeff Cobb hit the ring to serve as Le Champion’s hired gun.

Cobb puts the boots to Moxley before delivering his Tour Of The Islands finisher.

My head is spinning with all of the “hired guns” running around AEW. MJF has Wardlow (and the Butcher and the Blade).

But the point is we’ve got new, supremely talented faces debuting in meaningful ways.

Cobb vs. Moxley should be a good match, as it keeps the Le Champion’s challenger front-and-center in the limelight without having to do a lot himself.

AEW - All Elite Wrestling

The Breakdown

Six hits, two misses, and a near miss. It was definitely a roller coaster of an AEW: Dynamite episode.

The things that worked really worked, but the stuff that didn’t fell really flat for me.

I love having great in-ring action. But if there’s no story to come out of it, it should be two guys with nothing else going. Not matches between one guy with an ongoing story and another who’s just kind of there.

And the backwards booking of Moxley vs. Jericho is worrisome, especially considering how well it had been tracking for the last three months.

It’s not enough to make this week’s AEW: Dynamite a bad show. But it’s enough to disappoint me.

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

All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.

'AEW: Dynamite' - February 12, 2020

7.5

In-Ring Action

8.0/10

Booking/Writing

5.5/10

Promos/Video Packages

8.0/10

Entertainment Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Britt Baker is a born heel
  • The slow burn to the Elite breakdown is going to be fun
  • The women's belt is finally off of Riho!
  • Sammy Guevara rivals MJF as the best heel in the biz

Cons

  • MJF and Moxley's feuds weren't well-served by their matches
  • Nyla Rose vs. Riho was a mess
  • For the last time Jim: HIS NAME IS JUNGLE BOY!
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