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Dissecting the ‘average’ AEW Dynamite episode

Pro Wrestling

Dissecting the ‘average’ AEW Dynamite episode

When the bar has been set so high, are straight B’s and C’s really passing for AEW’s weekly show?

When I looked at the match card for last night’s AEW Dynamite and saw there weren’t any surefire bangers afoot, I figured we were in for some really good promos. I mean, if one of your featured matches is heavily emphasizing the involvement of Jake Hager, it’s hard to get hyped about match quality.

That’s not to say there were no good matches, or even that Hager’s match with Jericho and SCU wasn’t good (because, with all the talent there, it was never in danger of being genuinely bad). But while there was a lot of good, there was nothing particularly “great,” be it in-ring or on the mic.

It’s something I talked about last month with the AEW Anniversary Show, and it’s an opinion I also hold about the Nov. 25 episode of Wednesday Night Dynamite: it was fine, but how “fine” is “fine”?

In its short history, Dynamite has become rife with iconic moments. Moxley attacking Omega from behind on the debut. Cody’s “undesirable to undeniable” promo in Charlotte. Guevara getting hit by a golf cart. The Jericho and Cassidy debate.

And while it’s unfair to judge any show based off of its best moments, look at the last few weeks. Last week had Moxley’s great promo about his dad, Young Bucks vs Top Flight, Rosa vs Deeb, and the Inner Circle slaying Las Vegas. The week of Full Gear had Mox and Kingston’s in-ring confrontation, MJF and Wardlow vs Guevara and Ortiz, and Miro vs Trent.

It’s not all sunshine. The episode I skipped there — Nov. 11 — wasn’t great, but it did still have PAC’s return. The moment wasn’t enough to make me feel better about The Blade losing to QT Marshall, but it was still there.

So, nothing tonight was incredible, but nothing was bad, either. Everything more or less rode a straight line down the middle, though there was certainly one moment that peaked a smidge above the others.

First Things First

Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega were the absolute highlights of the week across three segments. Mox is no stranger to this role; I would say he’s in the highlight segment almost every week, actually. But with Kenny, his spotlight is kind of a slow burn. He and Hangman had little moments every week that built on top of previous moments, but as far as mic time and other out-of-the-ring moments went, Kenny Omega never got those moments.

Some people might chalk this up to the fact that Moxley is a great talker and Omega is a great “wrestler,” but of course it’s not that black and white. While Mox’s credentials as an in-ring performer aren’t in question, I think Omega is a little underrated on the mic. He’s no Kingston or Jericho, but when he was heading into and exiting the G1 in 2016, Cleaner Kenny drew me toward him with promos alone, as I didn’t see a single match of his until a year later.

But if you’ve only watched Omega in AEW and its adjacent programming, you’ve likely only seen him cut one promo similar to his hits in New Japan, and even that’s questionable because it was on the episode of Being the Elite right before All Out 2019. Sure there was no Dynamite yet, so the only real weekly show they had at the time was BTE, but that episode has 200,000 views when last week’s Dynamite got over 800,000.

Yo, but for real: add a view to this video and watch the first four minutes. Omega goes off.

I’ve been waiting for this Kenny Omega to show up on TV, and while we didn’t get it last week, we got a snippet of it this week with his adult version of the “my dad could beat up your dad” speech. Moxley, in turn, stole a segment with Eddie Kingston simply by walking on-screen without a word. In their solo moments, we got a lot of character: Kenny is getting really sassy, cocky, and careless, while Moxley is as dangerous as ever.

When Moxley showed up behind Kenny in the lit-up tunnel, I started asking myself, “Is this what the tunnel has been for the whole time?” Regardless of the answer, it’s a great pay-off, as I loved seeing the new Kenny get attacked by Moxley the same way he did last year. The promo after was solid enough as well, though it did remind me that this match has little build-up despite the tournament and their previous feud. I do see Omega winning next week, but it might not feel as good as it should.

The Rest of the Show

As an opener, Hangman vs Silver was about as good as a TV match without heat could be. After Hangman’s win (which I think I agree with in hindsight), we saw the real purpose of that match as the storyline between our favorite cowboy and our favorite Not Cult continued. We’ve come a long way from Hangman drunkenly applying to join the team and the Dark Order trying to recruit Hangman while he was actually happy. Now that he’s at his lowest, Hangman might join Cult Cabana as one of the Dark Order recruitment teams’ biggest gets.

And you know what? I’m here for it. Evil Uno’s Reverse Uno on The Elite — calling them the cult between the two stables — was an excellent mindgame, and I feel like Hangman might be happy for a little bit just hanging out with Uno, Silver, Reynolds, and 10. If Tay Conti joins, the group might actually go full-wholesome until Mr. Brodie returns, and even if it’s fleeting, I just want Adam to have supportive friends for a little bit.

In other news, Team Taz were great last night. The rechristened Powerhouse Hobbs just being Taz 2020 is very much welcomed (and “It’s just business” is a great catchphrase for the man). Ricky Starks cut a great promo, even if it was dragged down a bit by Cage just doing Midcard Big Man Heel Stuff. And Taz’s promo being interrupted by two mics being cut off was great, even though I don’t feel like Cody’s “lol i train ur son” was a good comeback at all, regardless of how amazing Taz’s offended response was.

As I alluded to earlier, SCU vs the Inner Circle wasn’t the slog I feared, and Hager actually showed some pretty good chemistry with Kazarian. Maybe I judged the Hager Meister too soon. The match was still one that I’ll forget about by the weekend, but after seeing all seven members of the Inner Circle cheat in unison and show off their two kill moves in the Dynamite Diamond and the Judas Effect (with a third kill move in the wings if you count Wardlow’s Knee That Causes Seizures), I think they’ve become a whole different kind of threat now with these increased numbers.

Scorpio Sky coming out afterwards and flailing his chair around kind of reminds me of Will Hobbs (tread carefully, Daniels), but seeing him scare off a huge stable by himself does remind me of a certain crow-like vigilante from WCW. I’ll be waiting to see him use the Scorpio Deathlock as a finish from here on out.

And while I did enjoy seeing Kaz blend his BTE personality with his AEW personality by getting fired up and socking MJF in the mouth (whole lot of acronyms there), one BTE trait that I wasn’t crazy about seeing so suddenly was Matt Hardy’s. I do like the gimmick of Matt acknowledging his living legend status, but it doesn’t feel like a natural progression from killing Sammy Guevara. That guy at Full Gear was unhinged, not narcissistic, and while I’ll enjoy “the truth is the truth” segments, I can’t pretend like it was built up on TNT.

Two other things I wasn’t high on (though not actively against) were the Kip and Miro segment and the Top Flight vs TH2 match. With Kip and Miro, I think I’m just over them as an act — mostly because Kip can’t act — but Top Flight and TH2 is something different.

Top Flight are a team whose future I’m optimistic for even if now’s not their moment. When they debuted against Dark Order on AEW Dark, a lot of fans were saying to sign them. I thought they were impressive, but they also needed some work, kind of like Private Party. As an avid “AEW’s Roster is Full” guy, I wasn’t clamoring for them to sign any free agent who isn’t a woman or named Chris Hero.

The Young Bucks match tricked me like the Jackson brothers’ match with Private Party last year, because after I started to think, “Hey, this new tag team is already legit,” they have another match and are just a little sloppy again. Not bad, but still a bit unpolished. I’ll love seeing them grow and I’m happy they’re signed, but I’m also really happy that they didn’t win this match against TH2.

And finally, while we’re on the topic of winning tag teams, The Butcher and the Blade finally ended Blade’s Three Weeks of Misery on a high note. Much like Top Flight, I was excited by the presence of Death Triangle, even if I was secretly rooting against them. Seeing PAC play the face is always fun, and it’s good to see Fenix in that role again as well, but after that loss to the Natural Nightmares, I just watch to see BB&B win every match for the next six months to make up for it.

Overall Conclusion

To sum up my emotions of the show, we could single out Hikaru Shida vs Anna Jay and look at the segment as a whole.

The match on paper barely piqued my interest. Then, before the match, they showed a little video package that got me a bit on board. After the match started, they had the graphic in the corner showing off their ring gear colors and that got a pop out of me. The match itself was good, but I already forgot anything that happened in it. Then, after the match, Abadon returned and scared Shida, recalling one of my favorite wrestler dynamics in AEW.

I didn’t care at first. Then I cared a little. I stuck around, and now I’m here for the next show.

Dynamite was definitely a C+ show in my book. I did have lowered expectations going in, and those expectations were met , but while a “C” suggests an average grade, I’m not sure if “average” fits when the show pretty regularly hits that B-to-A mark.

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