AEW Dynamite is riding high on what might be the strongest momentum they’ve experienced since their launch on TNT last year. Last week, the company had their best TV ratings of the pandemic era, beating out NXT in the Wednesday Night Wars by a huge margin and capturing the top spot in the coveted 18-49 demographic.
Propelling AEW to the front of the ratings is Orange Cassidy’s continued rise from internet meme to legitimate stardom alongside his foe, “the Demo God” Chris Jericho. AEW also recently signed FTR formerly known as The Revival, one of the best tag team’s in the world, and then there’s the undeniable star power of MJF. Add those all together in the same two hour time-slot, and you’ll see how AEW has created a wrestling powerhouse over at TNT.
And hey, if you haven’t figured it out yet, AIPT is filled with a bunch of wrestling nerds who love to talk about wrestling. So a few of us decided we’d talk after the show was over last night and breakdown AEW Dynamite‘s first ever Tag Team Appreciation Night. “A few of us,” of course being three of AIPT’s finest wrestling aficionados: Darius Melton, Nicole Herviou, and JJ Travers.
JJ: Tag Team Appreciation Night 2020 has come and gone. I feel like AEW continued their streak tonight of providing some damn good wrestling content. How are you guys feeling about their first tag team focused event on Dynamite, while also building to All Out?
Nicole: Well, as much as I freaking loved this episode of Dynamite, I’ve got some feelings. First of all, I kind of wanted more … tag team stuff? Two matches and then a bunch of old timers goin at it was not what I pictured. You know what would have been cool? The dang women’s tag tournament. Even one match. Like, the opportunity was right there.
That said, the matches we did get were pretty dope.
Darius: I agree on all points. I remember two weeks ago when it was announced that this was Tag Team Appreciation night, yet preceded that announcement by saying the main event would be Jericho vs. Cassidy, I thought, “Cool, but what’s this night really going to look like?” I will say this, though: I definitely appreciated tag team wrestling during the Dark Order’s opening tag match.
JJ: Brandi spoke about The Deadly Draw today in an interview and her primary points for keeping it on YouTube and not on Dynamite were: no time constraints, no comparison to the men, no pressure on the new talent, and feeling like it’s a self contained program all about the women.
I agree with all of that. But if they aren’t worried about the time constraints, why was the first match of the tournament less than five minutes long?
As far as Dynamite is concerned, the past two weeks we’ve gotten one women’s segment on each show and both were less than five minutes long. I’m glad they’re putting time and energy into the tournament, but that doesn’t mean women can’t continue to build their division on Dynamite. Very disappointing.
Nicole: JJ, you took the words right out of my mouth. I understand all of Brandi’s points, for sure. However, instead of giving Hikaru Shida about ten seconds of TV time and calling that their token women’s moment for the night, maybe have her do a spot AND have one of the tag team women’s matches. Remind people to check in on YouTube for the tournament. Like, I promise you can have more than two women in a two hour TV slot and the world won’t explode. You can do it, AEW.
Darius: I’m super worried about the whole women’s situation regarding builds. What’s All Out going to look like now? I figured, well, it’s tag team appreciation night, so as you said earlier, it’d make sense for one of those matches to happen. Then do the next one next week. But now they’re doing both Monday, hot-shotting the finals to Saturday, and now the only thing on All Out is (in theory) Baker vs Swole for now?
They could have had three strong women’s contests just built in through this tournament, a title, and one of the better feuds on weekly TV, but instead, Shida got a second of wrestling time and an 8th of that speaking. Where’s this progress we’re getting?
Nicole: Exactly, Darius. They’re talking about progress, but not actually doing the work except for some baby steps. I see them, but they are still baby steps. It’s just so irritating when they have a clear opportunity with Tag Team Appreciation Night and they just let it drop.
JJ: Moving on, one belt that I think looked a lot better tonight was the new TNT Championship! It’s an improvement for sure and looks much more official. That being said, I feel like gold plates on a black belt would have looked way better than gold on red. Is it me, or is it harder to read the plates now than it was when the belt was silver?
Darius: It’s not just you, JJ. The belts are all nice and shiny now, but that comes at the price of legibility. That being said, the whole presentation of it was amazing, which is something that I feel Cody does really well in general. The belt being brought out around his waist and with that entourage? I think his character is real smarmy, but when he loves something, he makes it look good.
Nicole: I agree. It’s not the prettiest belt, but that presentation was awesome. It felt like such a huge moment, I was sure Cody was about to lose the title. It just had so much weight to it. Truth be told, I was really rooting for Scorpio Sky. I think he’d be a fantastic champion. I do like Cody’s open challenge, though, so I’m okay with that lasting a little longer.
JJ: The Nightmare Family is the motliest of crews. I can’t get over what a group of misfits they are and how every single person was sporting some kind of merch tonight in a very obvious “buy this” sort of way. I see you playing with your action figure, Brandi.
But I’m with you Nicole. Scorpio Sky is incredibly talented and very likeable. I was pretty damn shocked to see the guy kick out of a Cross Rhodes. He’s definitely got some Saiyan blood in him, comes back stronger after every fight. Power level is sure to be over 9,000 soon.
Darius: I was bummed for a second to see that my boy Scorpio lost tonight, especially after all of the attitude he brought to the ring tonight. That still fresh theme, his aggression, kicking out of a Cross Rhodes. He was a star. But once the match was over and Brodie Lee came out, I realized that Cody still has so much to do! Brodie, Cardona, potentially an Archer rematch.
Which reminds me. Do y’all think whoever beats Cody will continue the open challenge?
Nicole: Oh man, I sure hope so! Though I do think they can take a week off once in a while to make room for some other matches on the card. It feels like there’s so much wrestling I want to see and those two hours just don’t allow for all of it. So, to have one wrestler who we see every single week … that may get old fast. I do think maybe a bi-weekly open challenge would be incredible, though.
JJ: Huge fan of Brodie Lee and I thought him showing up with the old title was such a cool way to start a feud between him and Cody. I’d love to see him take the belt off of the American Nightmare, as it feels like Lee lost a bit of his shine after being fed to Jon Moxley so quickly after debuting.
As far as the open challenge goes. I could go either way with it. I wouldn’t mind seeing Lee in a long term feud with someone else in lieu of another open challenge run. Off the top of my head, Darby Allin is my top choice.
Nicole: Oh I’m gonna say a couple contrarian things! Ready? 1) I don’t think TNT is gonna be cool with a heel wearing their name, especially one like Lee. That’s a branding/legal nightmare. 2) Brodie Lee is incredible as a cult leader character, but my lord the Dark Order as a storyline is so damn booooooorrrrriiiinnnnggg to me. Like, I’m over it. I love the wrestling itself and I love Brodie but every other character is a snooze-fest from a story perspective.
Darius: I think the light at the end of that tunnel is one Miss Anna Jay. She’s kind of carrying the mystique for me on the tag tournament shows, and I feel like if she keeps winning, there are going to be a few shake-ups in the cult’s rankings. However, the rankings are already weird, since 10 is above Silver, Reynolds, and Angels when all he did was get his arm broken? I’m less bored with the Dark Order and more worried about their momentum. I kind of wanted to see them win tonight, though I know the match was to sort-of end their feud for the moment while the Bucks go full steam ahead with FTR.
SPEAKING of which, there was a split second between Shawn Spears coming out and FTR attacking Morton and Gibson where I realized what was going down, and my heart was pounding, guys. Inject whatever this is directly into my veins. This storyline has so many groups in it!
JJ: As far as the primary segment of the night went, cause let’s be honest, Cassidy/Jericho wasn’t what Tag Team Appreciation Night was about, I loved it.
A weird, ridiculously backhanded compliment from Matt Jackson to the Rock ‘n’ Roll express when he called them the “original Young Bucks.” Also, it sure was awkward that he named Shawn and Marty as one of the tag team’s that drew influence from RnR Express after Marty just, ya know, recently admitted to murder.
This entire just screamed “Let’s draw parallels between the old generation and the new!” And hey, I’m fine with that. Because they did a great job making FTR look like total f*cking jerks. That spike piledriver was BRUTAL. But I have to say this, I know Dax Harwood is an incredible wrestler and a total badass, but dear god did he look like such a freaking dork with his jacket having an open elbow zipper. What’s that all about, man?!
Anyway, we’ve talked about so many great segments tonight, but I feel like we’re still forgetting what was possibly the best one. I’m talking, of course, about the continuation of MJF’s campaign to lead the company as the AEW Champion. Is this guy once in a generation or what?
Darius: If I could kiss a promo style, it’d be his. Dude was pegged a lot early on for always sticking with schoolyard bully “your mom” stuff, but give him direction and he’s gold. All he needs is a Cody or a Jericho or a Jungle Boy or literally anyone with a story, and MJF’s got it.
Plus, I loved his callback to Samoa Joe shoving him at TakeOver years ago. Poor Lee Johnson.
Nicole: MJF is a force to be reckoned with. I’m in awe of this kid. He’s the kind of heel that I absolutely love to hate. I don’t just outright hate him, like some other people (Sammy). I am so impressed by his skills on the mic, and then he can back it up in the ring. He’s pretty phenomenal and I cannot wait to see where his career goes.
Also, speaking of JUNGLE BOY. (Hi, hello, Jurassic Express mark here.) I so badly wanted the Tag Title to change hands on Tag Team Appreciation Night, and I so wanted my boys in Jurassic Express to shine! It was a great freaking match, but wouldn’t it have been nice if the actual tag team had come out on top?
JJ: Before MJF even got to the ring, he had me dying. Pushing that guy out of the way for getting in his shot, “MMMM! Good gum guy!”, yelling at his assistant to not speak unless spoken to, and then when he finally did get to the ring he cuts yet another unbelievably good promo.
Laying on the ground and looking up at the ceiling to make Mox more comfortable. What a genius idea and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do it before. The dude is a walking, talking example of how to be creative in an era where “everything’s been done before.”
Darius: I kind of hoped that, even if Jericho did give “a little bit of the virus” to everyone, it would at least be a great match, and while the match was enjoyable, I don’t think it lived up to the hype because of a few miscalculations. All of the dragon screw sells drove me nuts, but the mouse trap tore my heart to shreds because, while Cassidy did finally pin Jericho (joining Scorpio and Mox), it doesn’t really look great in promo packages now, does it?
Nicole: You’re right, Darius. Even as an Orange Cassidy fan, it was kind of a letdown. Did I scream when he won? You know I did. Was it a great technical win? Nah.
I think that honestly has a lot to do with the fact that Jericho is a much better talker than he is a wrestler. I think we all know that. So naturally, that affects the match and his opponent. It obviously doesn’t excuse Orange, but I think it’s a contributing factor.
At the end of the day, no matter how you slice that, the match should not have happened tonight, much less be the main event.
JJ: I’m fairly certain that the condition of Chris Jericho’s jacket week to week has been going on longer than than anything happening in WWE.
But I’m in such a pickle with him right now. On one hand, Le Champion is one of the best wrestlers on the planet and utterly hilarious. He makes every segment he’s involved in matter and the Demo God is a clear ratings driver. But he’s also a selfish jerk who’s either a wrestling savant, or a stupid idiot whose somehow stumbled his way into greatness. We may never know which.
Having Jericho on Dynamite this week makes everything AEW has said over the past several months about not running a sloppy shop, testing, masks, and social distancing seriously, GARBAGE.
The guy was playing with his band over the weekend at a sold out INDOOR show with people who weren’t wearing masks, weren’t social distancing, and were actively laughing about it all over social media. Less than five days later you let him back in your controlled environment because he can play the top guy card? Hypocrisy at its finest.
Darius: This just in, Samoa Joe will cut a promo directly into the microphone on Raw next week talking about sloppy shops.
It’s a real bummer on AEW’s part. It sucks that the story is tainted by this real-life bullcrap. I hate that this company is priding itself on stuff but not putting their money where their collective mouth is, whether it’s with women’s stuff or with COVID stuff. I know they “know” what’s right, so why aren’t they doing it? For the fans? The fans would rather have a Dynamite roster without a dangerous illness than one match between two guys we like. If I could go back in time and get rid of Omega vs. Okada IV to stop like 30 people from getting COVID, I’d do it with tears in my eyes, but I’d do it. Come on, AEW.
Nicole: Yeah, that was just incredibly irresponsible and inexcusable. It’s the kind of thing that’s gotten us into this situation, you know?
Related, I just got my own COVID results back, literally two minutes ago, and I’m negative! So that’s a win!
Darius: That’s awesome! Glad to see that at least someone is safe. Good news is always welcome.
JJ: YES! YES! YES! I’m glad that someone else on the team now knows the joy of having a giant pipe cleaner stuck up their nose. I had a test before my recent sinus surgery. Not a good time, but well worth the basic safety measures (HINT HINT AEW).
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