AEW: Dynamite this week was the clincher in the discussion of where the wrestling business is right now.
It is in a really, really weird place.
Promotions are having to resorted to stockpiles of pre-taped material, and they’re having to get creative.
All Elite Wrestling continues to answer that challenge. But they aren’t doing it quite as flawlessly as they were a few weeks ago.
This week’s AEW: Dynamite tried some new things, shuffled some interesting ideas. Some congealed into solid television, others failed to materialize into anything worthwhile at all.
It was a rare mixed bag for AEW: Dynamite. The show was solid. It was still good. But it showed that AEW might be running out of tricks as wrestling moves on in a coronavirus-stricken world.
NEAR MISS – JAKE ROBERTS PROMO
We start AEW: Dynamite with Jake Roberts sitting in a really nice chair and putting over Lance Archer.
Roberts is suitably creepy, comparing wrestling Archer to laying in front of a train or jumping out of a plane without a parachute. I’m surprised he didn’t mention sneezing around Vince McMahon. Although Brodie Lee kind of has that gimmick on lockdown.
Jake does a good job of bringing this around to Cody vs. Archer. He delivered the promo well, and he put Archer over like a star.
But considering the segment that immediately followed, it was kind of redundant.
HIT – LANCE ARCHER VS. ALAN ANGELS
First of all, who?
Anyway, Archer utterly destroyed Angels in an absolute squash match on AEW: Dynamite. But AEW has proved a number of times that a squash doesn’t have to be boring.
One week after crushing Marko Stunt, Archer showed off some really impressive offense, including a one-handed overhead suplex.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) April 9, 2020
The Murderhawk Monster picked up the win with a Razor’s Edge-style finisher, with Angels laying across Archer’s back before getting flipped and slammed to the mat.
Really strong performance by Archer, and with Cody in the main event, it makes for good foreshadowing to bookend the AEW: Dynamite with both guys.
HIT – HIKARU SHIDA VS. DR. BRITT BAKER, DMD
Okay, I’ve talked my share of smack about the women’s matches on AEW: Dynamite. I’ve said more than a couple unkind words about AEW’s women’s division in general.
But over the course of the last several weeks, AEW’s women have been absolutely killing it. Culminating in the best women’s match from either North American promotion this year.
Shida and Baker put on an absolute clinic, a veritable free PPV-quality match. I typically only deliver star ratings for matches when I review pay-per-views, but this was easily a ****1/2 contest.
Baker has stepped her game up exponentially since turning heel. She plays the role perfectly, knowing when to elicit chuckles and when to be horrifyingly-ruthless.
Case in point, halfway through the match she referenced her multiple AEW: Dynamite encounters with Tony Schiavone, looking directly in the camera and saying, “Help me, Tony!” It made me chuckle for two reasons. For one thing, she was playing the heel who thinks she might be in over her head.
And for another, what the hell is Tony going to do, anyway?
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) April 9, 2020
But this was as stiff a match as you’ll ever see, with some grimace-inducing punches that don’t look pulled at all. Also, remember blood? Because this match has a lot of it, as Shida busted Baker’s nose wide open.
Shida emerged victorious, having won eight of her last nine matches to hold on to her spot as the number-one contender.
The longer these women can keep having matches like this on AEW: Dynamite, the sooner we’ll see this division live up to its potential.
MISS – KENNY OMEGA/MICHAEL NAKAZAWA, BEST FRIENDS SEGMENT
Okay, so last spring – way before AEW: Dynamite was a thing – I said that Kenny Omega could be one of AEW’s game-changers.
Yeah, almost a year later, I’m okay saying that I was nine kinds of wrong about that.
The guy is solid in the ring, but he’s an awkward promo, a poor talker, and he’s just boring. He’s the Tim Duncan of pro wrestling – everything is well-executed, but it looks like crap.
Anyway, Omega and Nakazawa are talking about their tag-team match against Best Friends, and Omega says their team needs a name. Nakazawa suggests “Best Friends,” so Omega tries to explain there’s already a Best Friends. But, he says he might just use his spot as the EVP to give him and Nakazawa the name.
Unfortunately, it turns out the Best Friends heard the whole thing, and their match later on AEW: Dynamite is for the “Best Friends” moniker.
Okay, I get that available talent is slim pickings right now with the whole coronavirus business. AEW has to put together the stories the best they can with what they have. But this just sounds lame.
I’m sure the match will be awesome, but what a stupid reason to fight.
HIT – MOXLEY VS. HAGER PROMO
AEW: Dynamite goes behind the scenes of the Jake Hager vs. Jon Moxley empty arena match on April 22 for the AEW Championship.
Hager insists that he’s in the wrestling because he’s a prize-fighter. He wrestles for titles because it pays more, and that’s all he’s interested in. That sounds familiar.
Moxley insists that he an Hager aren’t pro wrestlers because they want to put smiles on faces. He says they’re wrestlers because fighting is what they do.
It’s a solid look back at both guys’ journeys since their respective debuts in AEW.
"This is gonna be ugly. This is a fight. This is violence." – @JonMoxley
MOXLEY VS HAGER
NO HOLDS BARRED
AEW World Championship is on the line!
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) April 9, 2020
If I had to guess, Hager’s wife is probably going to play a role in the match, as they went out of their way to feature her saying, “We’re a family of winners. You win or you don’t come home.”
A good AEW: Dynamite segment that told a really good story.
Most important, it did an excellent job of establishing Hager as an entity beyond Jericho’s muscle in the Inner Circle.
HIT – CODY VS. SHAWN SPEARS/TNT CHAMPIONSHIP PROMO
Oh wow, AEW: Dynamite is actually bothering to reference not only Spears but his history with Cody at AEW All Out.
Both guys really put over the concept of the TNT Championship.
There’s nice continuity spread all throughout this segment. We get a reminder of the chairshot at Fyter Fest, and in particular it’s nice that Cody reminds us that he can’t challenge for the AEW Championship.
Broken-record time: AEW excels at making every match mean something, even a first-round match in a tournament for a secondary championship.
NEAR MISS – KENNY OMEGA & MICHAEL NAKAZAWA VS. BEST FRIENDS (W/ ORANGE CASSIDY)
Speaking of Shawn Spears (and continuity), the Chairman of AEW is at ringside to remind Nakazawa that Spears is still looking for a new tag team partner.
Spears demands that Nakazawa not use his trademark “baby oil.” I second that, but only because the baby oil is stupid.
Omega and Nakazawa do some of their indie schtick, presumably as a shout-out to the eight people nationwide who get it. It’s always appreciated when pro wrestlers reward their fans for their knowledge, but I don’t know if it belongs on an AEW: Dynamite.
Tony Schiavone and guest-color commentator Chris Jericho really made this match, though. They were having a blast calling this one, but to be fair, it’s two guys with a combined 2,000 years in the business who get all the inside jokes. It doesn’t seem right without Jim Ross there to make the “Chuck Taylor” jokes.
In the end, the real Best Friends pick up the win and retain their name. Everybody hugs it out in the end, and all is right with the world.
Nothing wrong with everybody getting along, nothing wrong with a little silliness. But it needs to lead to something. The business with Spears could have gone somewhere, but it wound up being an inadvertent red herring.
Is that even a thing?
Having said that, if you’re going to experiment with whether or not this kind of pseudo-comedy match will play to a nationwide audience, now is the time, I suppose.
HIT – BRODIE LEE SEGMENT
Brodie Lee, the Exalted One of the Dark Order, pulls up in a Mercedes to the Order’s headquarters? I guess that’s where they are?
There are three minions waiting for him, only one of whom is wearing a neckitie. He gives the two without ties a lecture on perception and reality.
The one with a neck tie gets led by the Exalted One through a door with the AEW logo.
I dug this segment because it was short, and it told us something about Brodie Lee as a character rather than as a Vince McMahon caricature.
HIT – MATT HARDY PROMO
AEW: Dynamite joins the weird party with the guy who does it best, Matt Hardy. Damascus himself comes to us in a pretaped segment at the Hardy Compound.
Hardy answers “Le Hole of the Ass,” who set his hounds on Vanguard-1 on the previous week. He runs down the Inner Circle one-by-one, doubting Sammy Guevara’s status as a god and a Latino.
— #BROKEN Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) April 11, 2020
Then he goes after Jake Hager, calling him a “Jakenstein.”
Hardy calls Vanguard over with the Inner Circle shirt Jericho offered him the week before, and Vanguard reveals he’s set it on fire. He invites Jericho to come to the Hardy Compound to face Hardy in the Elite Deletion.
Bring on the weirdness, says I.
NEAR MISS – MR. BRODIE LEE VS. LEE JOHNSON
Johnson makes his debut on AEW: Dynamite to take a severe beating from Brodie Lee.
On commentary, Jericho comments on the similarities between Archer and Brodie. That would be one hell of a match.
The match was exactly what it was supposed to be, but it seems redundant (a running theme for this episode of AEW: Dynamite). The match didn’t help Brodie’s character in any way that the earlier Dark Order segment, really. It just felt like a match.
Generally speaking, AEW: Dynamite is handling Brodie’s early matches well, and I have faith that they’re going to take him an his character somewhere interesting.
But so far, it’s been just awkward enough to raise the tiniest bit of concern.
TNT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL MATCH – CODY (W/ BRANDI RHODES) VS. SHAWN SPEARS
Spears’s record so far in 2020 is 2-6. I say again, I need to start watching AEW Dark, because I haven’t seen a lot of Spears on AEW: Dynamite this years.
Man, every time I see that neck tattoo of Cody’s, I cringe. Not because I think it was painful, but because it’s butt-ugly.
Heh. Reading my mind, Jericho suggests that the neck tattoo was a botched attempt at getting Spears’s logo tattooed on Cody’s neck.
This match was excellent. It was physical, exciting, and it had just the right amount of signature pro wrestling silliness. It kind of makes me wish they’d had this match at All Out instead of the Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Four Horsemen callback fest they had.
Cody claims the win by pinning Spears with the Figure Four. Love that finish, if for no other reason than because it’s one we don’t see very often.
The American Nightmare advancing in the TNT Championship Tournament is the right move. I do wonder, though, what’s the point in having Spears being the one to take the loss. There’s history, but it’s history that’s barely been acknowledged in the AEW: Dynamite era.
But a great match is a great match. And this was a fantastic match.
No out-and-out misses this week, but AEW: Dynamite featured a larger concentration of near-miss segments.
And yet, part of that is because they seem to be making good use of the talent they have and delivering content in the form of pretaped segments and vignettes.
It was an experimental episode to be sure, but the stuff that worked clicked really, really well.
This episode is worth checking out just to see the women’s match. Every women’s match from every company, for the rest of the year, is going to be playing catch-up to Shida vs. Baker.
AEW: Dynamite airs Wednesday nights on TNT at 8PM/ET.
All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.
'AEW: Dynamite' - April 8, 2020
- Shida vs. Baker was a classic
- Chris Jericho on commentary. That is all.
- Matt Hardy keeps cranking out the weird
- Hager and Moxley promo was entertaining, believable
- Omega just isn't doing it for me
- Still not a clear picture of what the Mr. Brodie Lee character really is
- No Brandi Rhodes on ring announcing