Matt Hardy debuted on 'AEW: Dynamite'
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AEW: Dynamite aired this week under some pretty strange circumstances.

The world is gripped by fear and uncertainty. But in pro wrestling, the show must go on.

With Blood And Guts on the horizon, AEW still had some loose ends to tie up. Global pandemic or not.

Who is the Dark Order’s Exalted One? And who will team with the Elite in the titular Blood And Guts match in the absence of the injured Nick Jackson?

AEW: Dynamite had some issues to sort out this week. And, for the most part, they did a wonderful job.

'AEW: Dynamite' answered some big questions this week.

NEAR MISS — Promo, Cody And The Elite

Cody opens AEW: Dynamite alone in an empty ring and a semi-empty building.

The American Nightmare addresses the current coronavirus crisis. But he also addresses the crisis within the Elite. He calls on Matt Jackson, Kenny Omega, and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page to put their differences aside for the Blood And Guts match.

Omega makes his way out and seems game. As does Matt Jackson, without his partner and brother Nick who was injured on last week’s AEW: Dynamite. Finally, the Hangman makes his way onto the entrance ramp and toasts the rest of the Elite, signaling that he’s in.

But the question remains as to who will be the fifth member of Team Elite.

The segment worked in terms of getting the point across, and it did a good job of selling the Blood And Guts match for next week’s AEW: Dynamite. But the delivery was pretty stilted. Granted, it isn’t easy to deliver a promo to an empty arena, something I think wrestling should get away from in general.

These are segments best left for vignettes or studio interviews.

HIT — MJF Interview

Tony Schiavone catches up with MJF at ringside.

MJF, along with most of the heels in the company, has a front row seat and is making bets with Shawn Spears on the outcome of every match.

This is a great way to utilize the talent for an unconventional show. They don’t all have to wrestle on AEW: Dynamite but there’s no reason they can’t still be part of a show like this.

It’s a sign of great efficiency on the part of AEW. And it gives MJF a chance to do what he does best.

Be an absolute prick.

HIT — Best Friends Vs. Lucha Bros

Orange Cassidy joins the AEW: Dynamite announce team for guest commentary. He says nothing and actually falls asleep once or twice.

Still doing a better job than Jim Ross these days. By the way, Jim, those Chuck Taylor All-Stars jokes are great. You should make them every week until the end of freakin’ time, which at this rate will around noonish next Friday.

The feud between these two teams has been going off-and-on since November. And now it’s really starting to heat up.

Cassidy, of course, was the highlight of the match despite not being part of it. He hit an awesome dive off the stage onto the Lucha Bros, but it wasn’t enough to help Best Friends pick up the win. A low blow opened the door to the Luchas to hit a double stomp and package piledriver combination from the top rope to score the win.

After the match, Tony interviews Best Friends about the loss. Tony reminds them that the referee can’t call what he doesn’t see, so the Best Friends decide they don’t need a referee. They challenge the Lucha Bros. to a street fight in the parking lot at next week’s AEW: Dynamite.

So this feud might get some closure. A fantastic match overall, served even better by the continuation of a decent story.

HIT — Penelope Ford (W/ Kip Sabian) Vs. Riho Vs. Kris Statlander Vs. Hikaru Shida

Another solid women’s match for AEW: Dynamite.

Shida and Statlander team up to work over Ford, as Riho more or less becomes a non-factor. Just like when she was champion.

Cool spot near the middle of the match, as Shida and Statlander are taking it to Ford, and Sabian pulls their legs out from under them. MJF, sharing a bottle of wine with Shawn Spears, assures the referee he didn’t see anything and that everything is on the up-and-up.

Have I mentioned that I love MJF?

Shida picks up the win to keep her momentum going on AEW: Dynamite and to remain the top-ranked woman in the women’s division.

Solid match for AEW: Dynamite, though it does make me wonder who they’re positioning to be the top contender to the AEW Women’s Championship. Yeah, the rankings make things seem real-ish, but it’s already been shown that the rankings don’t mean much in that regard.

After the match, Tony catches up with Colt Cabana. He praises the women’s match but says Sabian’s interference was uncalled for. And because there’s only seven people in the building, Sabian can hear him clear as day. He confronts Cabana and gets slapped for his trouble.

Again, kudos to AEW for using a weird situation to build new stories.

HIT — Jon Moxley Interview

Tony Schiavone’s a busy guy. He caught up with AEW World Champion Jon Moxley in the parking lot to ask him about still not being medically cleared to wrestle.

Moxley promises to stay in the Inner Circle’s blind spot and to be there “wherever and whenever” Blood And Guts happens. Ya see kids, that’s what you call CYA.

And then he drives away in the car Jericho gave him.

Nice callback, AEW: Dynamite. And a decent segment to boot. Short, sweet, to the point. Keeps the champion on TV and the mix.

HIT — Butcher And Blade Vs. Jurassic Express

I’m getting to a point where I’m ready to take back the not-so-nice things I said about Butcher and Blade when they debuted.

These guys are as old school as it gets. All but the AEW: Dynamite answer to the Revival. Before the match starts, MJF slips some cash Butcher and Blade’s way.

They contrasted nicely against Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy. Much of the match was spent with Jungle Boy selling his heart out to the heels and Luchasaurus waiting for the hot tag.

Eventually, MJF screaming orders at his hitmen proves to be too much of a distraction, and the heels eat a cutter from Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy.

Jurassic Express picks up the win, adding a wrinkle to Butcher and Blade’s alliance with MJF.

Once more, AEW: Dynamite excels at setting its talent up with “side quests” in between the massive pay-per-view battles.

NEAR MISS — The Exalted One Arrives

The Dark Order makes their way to the ring, promising to finally reveal the identity of the Exalted One.

SCU joins them on AEW: Dynamite, presumably to call the Order’s bluff. But it’s no bluff, as the Dark Order directs them to the video screen.

We get a video package revealing the Exalted One to be Brodie Lee. That’s Luke Harper to you folks who like the programming from Stamford.

At the end of the video, Lee is in the ring with his minions, and they destroy SCU.

This is one of those angles that could have waited until AEW is able to get back to having live crowds. It’s cool to see Lee back at work, and in a company that actually sees what a star he is. But this is a story that could’ve stretched through the summer.

There was so much potential to string us along. But I get where AEW is coming from as well. If they’re gonna sign a guy to a contract, they need to get him dates to keep him paid. Just a missed opportunity that could’ve made for months’ worth of AEW: Dynamite moments.

HIT — Lance Archer And Jake The Snake Interview

Man-on-the-go Tony catches up with Lance Archer and Jake Roberts at ringside.

Jake takes the mic out of Tony’s hand and warns Cody that he can’t afford to ignore the threat Archer poses to him.

They roll a video of Archer setting up a ring in the middle of the woods and beating down local tough guys. Nice way to show Archer’s wrestling acumen without having to put guys in front of him for the sake of enhancement jobs.

Also, never let it be said that Jake Roberts can’t still cut a promo. A “you still got it” chant would be in order, but – well, you need an AEW: Dynamite crowd for that.

The stars of AEW worked in strange circumstances on 'AEW: Dynamite'

HIT — Inner Circle (Jake Hager, Santana, And Ortiz) Vs. The Elite (Cody, Matt Jackson, And ‘Hangman’ Adam Page)

The team that wins this match get the one-man advantage at WarGames. What’s that? (checks script) I mean Blood And Guts. I meant to say Blood And Guts.

Anyway.

Heh. The graphic on the screen bills Page as Adam ‘Handwash’ Page and says he’s been “social distancing since November.” It’s nice that they don’t let the “real sports” feel stop them from having fun. Sammy Guevara grabs a microphone and sings ‘Judas’ for Jericho’s entrance while MJF jumps up and down in time. He’s so obnoxious, and I absolutely love it.

Solid spot where Cody throws Ortiz into MJF at ringside. So naturally, Wardlow takes this opportunity to choke the American Nightmare.

With the talent in this match, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be a good AEW: Dynamite main event. Nothing new or special, but both teams ramp up the intensity to give us a taste of what to expect at Blood And Guts.

The Inner Circle picks up the win, which mean they get a 2-on-1 advantage to start the Blood And Guts match.

That match was awesome in and of itself. But we were’t done.

HIT — Wonderful Debut

The Inner Circle stands victorious over the Elite, and Jericho makes his way down to gloat. He even says he’s using his stroke as Le Champion to ban fans from all further AEW: Dynamite events.

Jericho keeps getting closer to legitimately being the greatest of all time.

But Matt Jackson cuts Jericho’s party short by saying he called in a special favor to make the Blood And Guts match an even five-on-five. A drone buzzes into the arena, and the camera pans up to reveal Matt Hardy.

Still crazy and still laughing like a lunatic.

After weeks of speculating that Hardy would be the Exalted One, AEW played his debut just right. It made an impact, and he’ll instantly be in a main event angle.

Fantastic way to close out AEW: Dynamite.

AEW - All Elite Wrestling

The Breakdown

It wasn’t a perfect AEW: Dynamite. The new normal for pro wrestling is going to take some getting used to.

And frankly, pro wrestling needs to get creative in how they present it in the empty arena format.

AEW took some solid steps by having the unused talent serve as the crowd while simultaneously keeping them involved in the unfurling stories.

It’s worth noting, though, that when hyping future AEW: Dynamite matches, both the announcers and Moxley would only commit to calling it the “next Dynamite.” Not “next week.” Again, CYA.

Here’s hoping the world stays (mostly) together for another week, because Blood And Guts promises to be one of the most important matches at a time when we need big, great matches.

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

All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.

'AEW: Dynamite' - March 18, 2020

8.1

In-Ring Action

9.0/10

Booking/Writing

7.9/10

Promos/Video Packages

7.5/10

Entertainment Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Matt Hardy has arrived!
  • AEW makes the best of a bad situation
  • MJF could just be a heckler EVERY week, and he'd be awesome
  • Keeping the heat alive for 'Blood And Guts'

Cons

  • Brodie Lee should've had a better, bigger build-up to his reveal
  • Opening promo was a little on the awkward side
  • Who are we highlighting as Nyla Rose's challenger, anyway?
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